Can Everybody Read the US Terrorist Watch List?

After years of claiming that the Terrorist Screening Database is kept secret within the government, we have now learned that the DHS shares it “with more than 1,400 private entities, including hospitals and universities….”

Critics say that the watchlist is wildly overbroad and mismanaged, and that large numbers of people wrongly included on the list suffer routine difficulties and indignities because of their inclusion.

The government’s admission comes in a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in Alexandria by Muslims who say they regularly experience difficulties in travel, financial transactions and interactions with law enforcement because they have been wrongly added to the list.

Of course that is the effect.

We need more transparency into this process. People need a way to challenge their inclusion on the list, and a redress process if they are being falsely accused.

Posted on February 28, 2019 at 6:22 AM25 Comments


Snarki, child of Loki February 28, 2019 7:12 AM

“People need a way to challenge their inclusion on the list, and a redress process if they are being falsely accused.”

Failing that, a way to get some names ADDED to the list. I have a little list…

Phaete February 28, 2019 7:56 AM

The scary things is that it does not only affect the USA.
An Australian electronics blogger was affected when his order at an Australian company was put on hold due to name similarity with someone on the watchlist.
He has a common name.
He had to mail a photocopy of his ID before the order was let through.

It’s funny how he orders a lot more from China nowadays ,hassle free.
A wise lesson for his 100k+ electronics enthusiasts viewers.

Alex K. February 28, 2019 8:35 AM

“People need a way to challenge their inclusion on the list, and a redress process if they are being falsely accused.”

I’m pretty sure that there’s some sort of US Constitutional Amendment that would cover this. Was it the Third? Ninth? Maybe one of the more recent ones like the 18th or 25th I guess, because it couldn’t be the ones in the Bill of Rights that talks about things like preventing self-incrimination or a speedy trial before punishment, because those have a massive jurisprudence and history supporting them which should prevent any agency from even considering any violations. </sarcasm>

VinnyG February 28, 2019 9:44 AM

Surely, with >1400 entities on the subscription list, someone with access could be persuaded to publish it (assuming that access is made available in the form of a list, not totally restricted to one-at-a-time look-ups.) Once that information is truly public, I’m confident that the compilers would be kept quite thoroughly utilized justifying and defending the entries…

1&1~=Umm February 28, 2019 10:19 AM

“People need a way to challenge their inclusion on the list, and a redress process…”

That is based on recent US History very unlikely to happen.

Because this century the trend of the US Gov has been to ‘admit no mistake’ and or ‘no standing’ if that is not possible ‘find a crime any crime and pursue the person into bankruptcy if not the grave’.

After all what’s happening with ‘Marcus Hutchins’

Or how about ‘Meng Wanzhou’, the Canadian ambassador to China John McCallum has made a public comment to the effect that she has “good arguments on her side,” the first of which was “political involvement by comments from Donald Trump in her case.”

Nameless Cow February 28, 2019 10:37 AM


Just noticed the new picture of you on your blog. What’s the message on the stick on your computer?

CallMeLateForSupper February 28, 2019 10:42 AM

@Nameless Cow
“What’s the message on the stick on your computer?”

“If you can read this, you are too close.”
Not really, but I couldn’t resist. 😉

mark February 28, 2019 11:24 AM

I’ve had serious issues with it all along. How does one get put on: on what evidence?

And worse, what identification is required to identify the person?

In-your-face datapoints: 15? yeers or so ago, Congressman David Thomas was not allowed to fly for a couple of weeks, because someone of that name was on the list. HOW many David Thomas’ do you personally know, or have known?

Shortly after that, they tried to prevent another man from flying. Unfortunately, Sen. Ted Kennedy (yes, that Kennedy) did not take that kindly, and they fixed it then.

I’ve no doubt that some of them are put on by right-wing politicians. But the id? I remember an infant – literally, under 2 yrs old – was denied, because their name was on the terrorist watch list.

No one should be on it without a) evidence good enough for a warrant, and b) id adequate to identify one person, not John Smith.

albert February 28, 2019 12:01 PM


Perhaps you misunderstand the purpose of the list. It’s a convenient way to go after anyone doesn’t tow the party line, like journalists, pundits, and various rabble rousers who disagree with gov’t policies. That Senators, babies, and dogs are included gives the impression that the TSC is incompetent, but it’s really a smokescreen.

Be wary when applying reason and logic to govt policies.
. .. . .. — ….

herman February 28, 2019 12:46 PM

@Nameless Cow
It says: “This machine kills fascists”.

I prefer Voltaire’s: “Écrasez l’infâme”.

The French makes it sound so much more profound…

1&1~=Umm March 1, 2019 4:18 AM

@Petre Peter @albert:

“The longer the list, the bigger the threat, and the bigger the budget.”

“Be wary when applying reason and logic to govt policies.”

Yup you guys Grok ‘The New Deal’.


“Once that information is truly public, I’m confident that the compilers would be kept quite thoroughly utilized justifying and defending the entries…”

Hmm let me see ‘To leak or not to leak, that is the question?’

Whistleblowers were ‘Target numero uno’ with the previous administration and for all the flummery of early morning tweets, they are still the target of choice for those in senior positions in the current administration.

George Orwell wrote about the fundemental policy of creating big scary threats that are not real but can be twisted and manipulated to keep societies eyes away from the real game. The sufficiently distant ‘enemy of the state’ is a most usefull distraction ‘be they fake or be they real’ as a UK PR / Spin Wonk working in a Gov Dept once Emailed her colleagues,

Yup Jo Moore actually told the truth with,

“It’s now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors’ expenses?”

On,Sept 11, because every ones attention was focused on the Twin Towers…

Even though she was alleged to be a good friend of then Prime Minister Tony Blair and had held senior rolls within the party, the knives were out. Officialy the last we heared about her, was she had started a Teaching Assistant job in Haringey North London.

But the ‘Official Policy’ on leaking was the same old same old,

Of ‘get ye hence to the wilderness’ where you can be steam rollered into the mud. Or worse much worse as we were to find out with the ‘Doddgy Dossier’ and the death Dr David Kelly over Iraq WMD.

Others as we know have barely escaped by the skin of their teeth to places they would rather not be. Only to have senior gov officials now in the US IC saying that they should be put to death.

So whistleblowing at any level is a dangerous game that can follow you to your grave. Especially if you are telling a truth that those in power do not want held up against their direct and indirect lies.

MarkL March 1, 2019 12:12 PM

I did not notice any info as to how these 1400+ institutions work with the list, but I’d doubt very much that they receive a copy of the list. More likely some sort of inquiry process (online, email, snail mail):

Is the name: “Bruce Aloysius Schneier IV” on the list?

Difficult to leak the list, if that’s the situation, at least from the 1400+.

Nameless Cow March 1, 2019 6:04 PM


Thanks. I think you got it right, but that seems like a rather obscure reference that I don’t expect a lot of people to know. Is that story well known in some circles?

Erdem Memisyazici March 2, 2019 5:40 PM

Read about Elizabeth LeCron an attention seeking emo chick whose life was literally infiltrated by anti-terror officials, from building a tailored team to her psychological profile to having this team replace all her friends and work on her for months until the team literally drove her (in a car) to a sporting goods store, gave her $100 to buy nails and black powder and arrested her for being a terrorist. She refuses to participate in their plot (a move which they called her uncool for and how those who would help were being ‘flaky’ and wouldn’t).
Eventually she caves in to pressure and agrees to do a favor she thought was legal for her friends. Her life is now ruined, her psychology is in shambles while an all-secret team of essentially actors are high fiving each other for stopping a make belief terrorism plot. It’s all in the affidavit and it’s quite fascinating how we are hunting financially troubled civillians we think are ‘scary’ with military force in a free society.

Wesley Parish March 3, 2019 1:44 AM

@Alex K

I just perused the US Constitution, courtesy of

clearly a pterorist-loving site: it mentions the following:

Article I, Section 9:
3: No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

followed by:

Bill of Attainder
– legislative act pronouncing guilt without trial

This US Terrorist Watch List would appear to possess many of the attributes of a Bill of Attainder, though it is more in the way of an executive decree rather than a legislative act. Still, the US Constitution doesn’t make out the US President to be some sort of superman the way the GOP’s Ronald Reagan personality cult makes him out to be … or the media coverage tends to blow any US President up to be …

Mark March 4, 2019 12:02 PM

Hey Erdem Memisyazici. I don’t quite follow using Elizabeth LeCron as an example of someone who doesn’t belong on a watch list… After all, she had already bought a number of weapons and had been making plans with her accomplice to do another bombing. They had even bought end caps that would be used for making pipe bombs. I’d say the officer who swore out the warrant and the agents involved did quite a good job. She eventually was going to act. They just helped move up her timeline and likely prevented another real tragedy from occurring. She is where she belongs now.

greenup March 5, 2019 11:55 AM

RE: Sticker on Laptop

I think a compelling case for the text on the sticker can be made that it says:

The first word is less distinct than the others, and a google search for “MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS” returns the slogan with “THIS” at the front most often.

Also, the last character’s blur is similar to other blurs believed to be S’s, though “E” is also a fair match.

Lastly, though, google images shows this in the first page of results: (revealing a good guess for the initial symbol)

Erdem Memisyazici March 14, 2019 4:57 PM


Clearly we don’t arrest people for future crimes, although that’s the direction we seem to be heading. Take the time to read the affidavit where the JTTF agents took the time to crawl her Tumblr profile and note in official court documentation how posting a picture of Dylan Roof holding his hand like a weapon was horrifying imagery. Keep in mind, not knowing how hard she was harassed she still refused to participate in the fictional plot.
Checkout my slashdot article for a better summary.

Christian von Delius February 7, 2020 1:19 PM

Came here via Google and you don’t bother to answer the question.
So can we access this TWL? A link?

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.