Watch List a Flimsy Way to Deny Rights
In 2010, the Government Accountability Office concluded that “membership in a terrorist organization does not prohibit a person from possessing firearms or explosives under current federal law.
Indeed, according to the GAO, between 2004 and 2014 suspected terrorists attempted to purchase guns from American dealers at least 2,233 times. They succeeded 91 percent of the time.
Sounds scary, particularly in light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris that were carried out largely with small arms. That would appear to be a glaring loophole that threatens domestic security, but the way some in Congress have proposed closing it would create an even bigger threat to civil liberties.
It all hinges on how you define a “suspected terrorist.” For Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D.,Calif., all it requires is for your name to be on a government list. She is sponsoring a bill that would prohibit anyone whose name appears on the FBI’s terror watch list from buying a firearm or an explosive while traveling in the United States.
That list, which contained 47,000 names at the end of George W. Bush’s presidency, has grown to nearly 700,000 people on President Obama’s watch. The fact that they are names, not identities, has led to misidentifications and confusion, ensnaring many innocent people.
According to the technology website TechDirt.com, 40 percent of those on the FBI’s watch list — 280,000 people — are considered to have no affiliation with recognized terrorist groups. All it takes is for the government to declare is has “reasonable suspicion” that someone could be a terrorist. There is no hard evidence required, and the standard is notoriously vague and elastic.
Something as opaque and corruptible as the terrorist watch list should not be the basis for denying a person his constitutional liberties, whether it be the right to bear arms or the right to due process.
Reprinted from the Northwest Florida Daily News
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