Feds share watchlist with 1,400 private groups

FALLS CHURCH, Va (AP) – The federal government has acknowledged that it shares its terrorist watchlist with more than 1,400 private entities, including hospitals and universities, prompting concerns from civil libertarians that those mistakenly placed on the list could face a wide variety of hassles in their daily lives.

The government’s admission that it shares the list so broadly comes after years of insistence that the list is generally not shared with the private sector.

Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has filed a constitutional challenge to the government’s use of the watchlist, called the government’s admission shocking.

“We’ve always suspected there was private-sector dissemination of the terror watchlist, but we had no idea the breadth of the dissemination would be so large,” Abbas said. The watchlist is supposed to include only those who are known or suspected terrorists but contains hundreds of thousands of names. The government’s no-fly list is culled from a small subset of the watchlist.

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.

The Associated Press is the first to report on the disclosure after reviewing the case documents.