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United States Government

The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist 242

Posted by Soulskill
from the suspect-wears-a-funny-hat dept.
Advocatus Diaboli sends this report: The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither "concrete facts" nor "irrefutable evidence" to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept. ...The heart of the document revolves around the rules for placing individuals on a watchlist. "All executive departments and agencies," the document says, are responsible for collecting and sharing information on terrorist suspects with the National Counterterrorism Center. It sets a low standard—"reasonable suspicion"—for placing names on the watchlists, and offers a multitude of vague, confusing, or contradictory instructions for gauging it. In the chapter on "Minimum Substantive Derogatory Criteria"—even the title is hard to digest—the key sentence on reasonable suspicion offers little clarity.
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The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist

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  • McCarthyism v2.0 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amoeba1911 (978485) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @04:58PM (#47518275) Homepage
    • by Penguinisto (415985) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @05:25PM (#47518463) Journal

      Worse, really - even McCarthyism required some sort of evidence by way of associations, party memberships, and etc.

      In this case, you don't even get that.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @05:38PM (#47518549)

        Right out of the East German playbook. Suspect everyone & have all neighbors fink on everyone else to generate mind numbing paranoia.

        • The East German parallel is intriguing I'll admit, but the former DDR was literally using an abacus for math compared to the power and omnipotence of current electronic data collection.

          Question is, just how low will they set the bar?

          Posted sarcastically on Slashdot = one demerit. Brother-in-law waited on a table of Americans of Arabian descent at the Steakhouse = one water-boarding.

        • This suggests a very fun way to fight back. We could all just start snitching on each other left and right until EVERYONE is on the list.

          An alternative is to start fingering our elected representatives. I heard Wyden was having meetings with Terrorists, and I'm pretty sure I saw Merkeley come out of a mosque once... Etc....

        • by Luckyo (1726890) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @10:59PM (#47520339)

          Except that at its best, Stasi had to employ massive amount of people and it still couldn't only keep an eye on about every seventh citizen and some key people abroad. That's it.

          US already keeps an eye on every single one of its citizens, and most of the people around the globe, with additional more rigorous checks done against those it puts on various "watch lists".

          Between the dragnet surveillance, extraordinary rendition, targeted killing campaigns, "advanced interrogation techniques" and highest incarceration rate in the world, Eastern Germans were like little inexperienced trainees in comparison to US when it comes to surveillance and control of its population.

          • by rastos1 (601318)
            Yes, in the meantime the technology has advanced.
          • Re:McCarthyism v2.0 (Score:4, Interesting)

            by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@@@world3...net> on Thursday July 24, 2014 @07:36AM (#47521511) Homepage

            American politicians keep saying "they hate our freedom". No, we hate your war on freedom, and your utter contempt for it. You have become worse than the monster you were trying to defend against.

            I do sometimes wonder if they know they are the bad guys, or if they have yet to come to that realization.

            • by Luckyo (1726890)

              I think this is the most missed part by the general public. There's too little focus on what is probably the biggest issue, politicians' ability to control intelligence bureaus.

              Consider for a moment one of the best aspects of having functional dragnet surveillance in democratic society with need to get re-elected and at least partially functioning anti-corruption legislation. Dragnet surveillance means that you have the ability to unseat and discredit any politician at any time when you need to. You can't o

      • No, they'll still nail you for associating with the wrong people. This is just how they'll nail you.

        I think they took a page Object based programming. They just do:

        #include
        varMinority = "Jews"

        For each person
        {
          If Person(i) = varMinority
        Then
        Terrorist.arrest(Person(i))
        else
        Terrorist.propaganda.Person(i)
        }

        etc...
        excuse my horrible syntax. I'm not fluent in fake code.

      • Witchhunt (Score:4, Insightful)

        by aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @08:13PM (#47519551)

        The word for this is witch hunt. A simple correlation is enough.
        Just as merely being unusual marked a person as a witch when a plague broke out, posting unusual comments in social media, right before or after a terrorist incident, now marks you as a terrorist.

    • I don't know why this is marked troll. We may not be there yet, but all it's going to take is one guy in a position of power with the will to use it the way McCarthy did. That's a pretty damn small barrier between "freedom" and "blacklists".

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @05:53PM (#47518675)

        Instead of blacklists, I think we're quickly moving towards whitelists. By default you're a terrorist or a criminal until proven otherwise.

      • It's marked troll because it's blaming this all on Obama. This shit has been building for a long while. The post is just blatant stupidity... I won't say he isn't guilty. Oh no, this shit is happening under Obama's watch. To blame it all on him though is... Well, Trollish.
        • by sjames (1099)

          It wouldn't be at all fair to blame Obama solely for the problem. However, given that he could wipe out large chunks of this with the stroke of a pen, it's reasonable enough to grant him considerable blame. Before GOP supporters get too smug, Bush could have wiped it out with a stroke of his pen as well and didn't.

    • Actually, (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @07:05PM (#47519103)

      McCarthy was not spying on all Americans, tapping all their phones, reading all their mail, groping them at the airport, sifting through their medical records (after forcing those records to be electronic and part of a national system) and so on.

      Furthermore, McCarthy was onto a real problem before he went way overboard (I hate being in a position that looks like I am defending him, which I am NOT). There actually were a few commies in the government (as we learned decades later after the collapse of the soviet union and the opening of the archives) and there actually were a few commies in Hollywood having secret meetings (though they were more like social gatherings and the form of communism was more of an innocent idealism about "some other way" borne from the great depression). There also really were spies in the US transferring military (particularly nuclear) tech to the Soviet Union, which really was an actual national security matter. A drunken, bloated, publicity-hungry man with no sense of self-restraint and common sense was not the best person to dig into these issues.

      In the current situation, 99% of the population is easily identifiable as being NO threat at all... the people trying to harm us are all Muslim extremists and the vast majority are from outside the US. Oh, and SOMEBODY always injects Tim McVeigh in here as a "domestic terrorism" counter-point - it's not. He was a vile criminal who attacked a specific Federal Building associated with the Waco raid, NOT a terrorist randomly attacking civilians.... very bad and deadly, BUT a very different matter requiring a response not connected to the "war on terror" (lumping McVeigh in with Muslim extremists is precisely the sort of thing that wrongly enables the feds to pretend their universal spying is necessary). If the goal is to stop terror attacks (rather than eliminate all crime, which is an impossible goal) there's simply no reason to spy on any American atheist, Jew, Christian, Buddist, Hindu, Seikh, etc and very little reason to give even a second look at any Muslim who's not forcing his wife and daughters into personal body tents, not trying to slice-and-sice his daughter's "naughty bits", not trying to send his daughters "home" to the middle-east for arranged marriages, and not trying to cut-off the hand of a guy at the local mosque (as happened in Philly recently)... in other words: there's even a difference between "moderate" Muslims and the crazy evil bloodthirsty whackjob Muslims who we need to be spying on intensely. Groping little children of non-muslims, and elderly nuns at the airport is NOT security - it's "security theater". Snooping on a bunch of young guys who play Halo because your phone taps caprtured the word "explode" is just plain idiotic.

      We currently have, in Barack Millhouse Hussein McCarthy a man who is completely out of control. His political opponents have found themselves being probed by the IRS, the ATF, the FBI, and the EPA, while he has declared that he has the right to single-handedly re-write the clear text of laws and choose to not enforce laws he does not like. He has taken programs originally designed to snoop on people outside the US (normal spying activity done by all nations) but expanded post-9-11 to also snoop on people within the US wo were in contact with outsiders who were possible threats (Constitutionally-dubious, but an understandable temporary reaction to thousands of dead bodies) and transformed it into a permanent program of spying on EVERYBODY at all times. When you unite universal comprehensive spying with using government agencies to hassle political opponents and a disregard for any inconvenient law you have totalitarianism. If people were looking at this clearly, they would be FREAKING OUT right now (Imagine if a "President Cheney" was doing it and the people in the cross-hairs were progressives...) but since Obama is supported by all but one of the news media outlets, most Amercians are being spoonfed a supportive view of some of this and not told about the r

      • Actually, (Score:4, Informative)

        by AHuxley (892839) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @07:37PM (#47519289) Homepage Journal
        Thats interesting AC but recall the FBI infiltration program called Patcon (Patriot Conspiracy) around 1991?
        The laws, funding, interest was always ready. This new more simple legal listing is just a new next step to gather more people onto new and existing databases.
        Patriot Games
        http://www.foreignpolicy.com/a... [foreignpolicy.com]
        If you want to go back further you had Project MINARET http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]
        i.e. "watch lists" of American citizens around 1967 and 1973.
        No judicial oversight, no warrants for interception and even got some UK help too :)
  • I recently posted on social media how easy it would be to simply replace a DVD player on a laptop with explosives, clearly and simply showing the meaninglessness of the TSA's requirement to power on devices to get through security. I think it's perfectly likely that this, along with my consistent criticism of the US government and its policies, can put me on a list.
    • by nytes (231372)

      As long as you don't get involved in a trial against the no-fly list, you're probably OK.

      http://yro.slashdot.org/story/... [slashdot.org] for those who need a refresher.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @05:40PM (#47518567)

      Meh. The joke's been around forever, except it's no joke:

      There was a inter-agency meeting where various federal agents discussed what makes a person getting off a plane suspicious. They came to a conclusion that:
      Anyone who gets off first, or near the front, is obviously rushing, and thus is suspicious.
      Anyone who gets off last, or near the back, is obviously being cautious, and thus is suspicious.
      And anyone who gets off in the middle is trying to lose themselves in the crowd, and thus is suspicious.

      Point is, if they want you on 'a list', they'll put you on the list, no matter what you do or don't do. /isn't that a 'police state'? //...I mean "I love Big Brother!"

      • by AHuxley (892839) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @08:02PM (#47519457) Homepage Journal
        Re "Point is, if they want you on 'a list', they'll put you on the list, no matter what you do or don't do."
        Reworking the old Soviet "owning a western watch" joke:
        Three frequent flyers in a military prison get to talking about why they are there.
        "I am here because I always got to airport five minutes late, and they charged me with sneaking in", says the first.
        "I am here because I kept getting to airport 2 hours early, and they charged me with spying" says the second.
        "I am here because I got to airport on time," says the third, "and they charged me with owning a watch."
      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Of course think of all the fun if you knew you were on the terrorist watch list. Sending properly worded private emails to all the people private or public you dislike. The higher up the list you are the greater the damage mwah ha ha. Is there a way to leak a copy, are you rated alphabetically or by threat level, we want UID scores, yeah. The all new social networking game, get yourself on the Terrorist Watch list and see how high you can raise your threat level, without actually getting arrested. Publicat

    • by alen (225700)

      i think all you need is a redress number from the TSA. or just get a known traveler number

  • by Crashmarik (635988) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @05:06PM (#47518331)

    “Instead of a watchlist limited to actual, known terrorists, the government has built a vast system based on the unproven and flawed premise that it can predict if a person will commit a terrorist act in the future,”

    I thought that was an exceptionally silly idea when it used in Captain America Winter Soldier. Is Armin Zola running the DHS ?

    The overreach of this goal, is very worrisome. Especially when you consider that the inevitable failures will likely result in its promoters just doubling down on what they claim it needs to work.

  • Tuttle (Score:5, Funny)

    by kharchenko (303729) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @05:06PM (#47518335)

    Finally, silly bureaucratic holdups will no longer preclude Mr. Archibald Buttle's addition to the terror list!

  • Sounds like security clearance language. That is an odd sieve to use.
    • Sounds like security clearance language. That is an odd sieve to use.

      Not at all. "Reasonable suspicion" is legal language, which is why they use it in both contexts. It is the minimum amount of information that a police officer (or other federal agent) can have to stop you on the street, even if they lack a warrant, without violating the Constitution. It basically means they have to point to specific facts that under the circumstances suggest you may be up to something criminal. (They don't have to identify those facts to you when they stop you, necessarily, but they can

      • by mdsolar (1045926)
        I was thinking about Minimum Substantive Derogatory Criteria as an indication of where the thinking is coming from. That kind of balancing is used to assess counterespionage efforts. We're not looking for people who might be exploited by spies I think.
        • by gl4ss (559668)

          spies, terrorists. it's all the same really.

          it used to be that foreigners blowing up bombs in USA were spies, now they would be terrorists. except if they're part of the cartel, then that's just "crime"(and almost a hundred years ago blowing bombs in NYC was not enough to get USA choose sides in a war, haha).

    • Sounds like security clearance language. That is an odd sieve to use.

      actually it makes a lot of sense. Why should the govt have to go around proving that people are terrorists? Under PATRIOT 2.0, now every citizen plays a part because each of us has to prove to the govt that we are not a terrorist.

  • Not shocked at all. Which is sad.

  • Soon enough (if not already), they will have "reasonable suspicion" to add all Slashdot users to the list.

    • Re:Slashdot Users (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @05:26PM (#47518469) Homepage Journal

      Soon enough (if not already), they will have "reasonable suspicion" to add all Slashdot users to the list.

      Hmm, let's see:

      - technologically savvy? Check.

      - Interested in/knowledgeable about cryptography/biology/chemistry? Check.

      - Generally Libertarian (pro-individual-freedom) mentality? Big ol' check.

      - NOT large donors to political campaigns? Good chance of another check here.

      Sounds like yes, we as a group do indeed meet the Fascist, er Federal Government's definitions of "terrorist."

      Any attributes I failed to list, that makes our community a target for clandestine government agencies?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bswarm (2540294)
        Using Linux? Check.
      • Post under a pseudonym? Check

        Use encryption for email? Check

        Don't use Facebook? Check

        Use DuckDuckGo? check

        Use Tor? check

      • Big ol' check for one Penny.

        Totally like to be the one to initiate.

        I would add: high percentage of regulars who can spell TOR, sympathize with Snowden, and are familiar with the Bitcoin and Silk Road.

  • by tekrat (242117) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @05:28PM (#47518479) Homepage Journal

    In "The Changeling", the probe "Nomad" seeks to sterilize anything that is "imperfect" -- and of course, everything is imperfect to Nomad.

    So essentially, *everyone* is a terrorist, and everyone is duty-bound to report their neighbors. Until everyone is watching everyone and we're all ready to shoot our neighbors to maintain the peace.

    Those Aliens are coming to Mulberry street alright.

    And I got to reference two 1960's TV shows that warned us of this very event, and we're too dumb to listen. Amurica f*ck Yeah!

    • by tekrat (242117)

      Sorry, it was "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street", not aliens on Mulberry... My brain is shot at this hour without coffee.... Either way, you get it, I hope! ..... screw you slashdot lameness filter.

  • by macs4all (973270) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @05:29PM (#47518495)
    I for one am glad they are continuing their rampant overreach.

    The more they delve into the land of ridiculousness, like the McCarthy era "Un-American Activities" Lists, the quicker we will have those Congressional Hearings where it all blows up in their faces.

    At least I hope history repeats itself...
  • Kind of terrifying (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @05:40PM (#47518563) Homepage

    What's terrifying about this is, there has been a precedent set that being a "terrorist" voids your constitutional rights. If you're a terrorist, the US government can assassinate you, even if you're a citizen. They can lock you up indefinitely in secret prisons. They can spy on all of your communications, and conduct searches that are otherwise illegal. They can torture you. They can do anything they want in the name of "winning the War on Terror".

    So once you have that kind of policy towards terrorism, there's only one thing, in theory, protecting your constitutional rights: a strict definition of 'terrorist'.

    If terrorist have no rights, and anyone can be considered a terrorist, then nobody's rights are protected. Now someone might respond, "No, you still have your rights. You can speak freely, you can bear arms, there are no soldiers in your house, and the government isn't searching through your belongings." And you're right. I currently have all of those freedoms. However, if those freedoms are contingent on the will of a government official, and those freedoms can be arbitrarily taken away, then they aren't 'rights' anymore.

  • by tekrat (242117) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @05:45PM (#47518611) Homepage Journal

    I mean, if I had to name someone a terrorist, I'd start with Rupert Murdoch, and then think about the CEO of Goldman Sachs (Blankenfein?)... Then there's that bank HSBC, that knowingly laundered money to terrorists and drug cartels.
      If you really think about it, the 1% are the nastiest bunch of terrorists around, but I'll bet you the entire planet (which the 1% own), that these terrorists never, ever, ever get their names on any terrorist list.
      So, what's a terrorist then? Someone, I guess... who represents a threat to the real terrorists running the world.

    • by sumdumass (711423)

      Are you sure you know what the word terrorist means? The 1% likely can just buy their politicians and political favors- they wouldn't need to resort to terrorism. And no, being a greedy douche or a stingy bastard does not make someone a terrorist.

    • Terrorist: No right to a speedy trial, no right to habeus corpus, No constitutional rights at all. Actually it's the Cold War equivalent of hauling people from their homes in the middle of the night... except that once you affix that label to them, you can operate in broad daylight.
    • by trawg (308495)

      The 1% are just playing the game that US politicians were happy to sell to them. I can't fault them for their scummy behaviour. I can't hate them for taking advantage of a system that is broken.

      Your elected officials are supposed to be standing up for the citizens, not selling out their office - and their country - to the lobbyists that basically seem to control the fate.

      The really sad part is everyone feels stuck in this two party system, this horrible false dichotomy that has been carefully manoeuvred by

    • by gweihir (88907)

      You are doing this wrong. This is not about friends of the government that may have done the one or other evil thing. It is about all the people the government does not like.

  • by Virtucon (127420) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @05:49PM (#47518637)

    This is the most blatant disregard for constitutionally protected rights I've ever seen. I'll make sure I carry copies of "Catcher In He Rye" and "Anarchists Cookbook" wherever I travel. I'm surprised that this has been allowed to continue but it's utter nonsense and just the first fucking page of the document shows how fucked we are with all these shields representing stakeholders into the system. I especially like the part where one person in the White House can immediately include a group or individual on the terrorist watch list as they see fit. Have any political enemies? They're on the list.

  • by djupedal (584558) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @05:53PM (#47518673)
    From the article: 'As the rulebook notes, “watchlisting is not an exact science.”'

    'science'?
  • Its okay to say someone is a "suspected terrorist" with no hard evidence in the same way the police can suspect you of murder even though they can't really prove it yet. Suspicion doesn't mean you get hit with hellfire missiles from a drone of course. That should require proof especially if they're americans.

    That said, if you're walking around in a war zone talking to terrorists... I wouldn't blame the pentagon for lighting you up at a certain point. If you're going to go to those places, at least tell some

  • Aside from doing anything illegal, hurting anyone, etc. Seems that if enough of us buy the Get On The Terrorist List for Dummies then the problem sort of solves itself by making the list useless.
  • hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cascadingstylesheet (140919) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @08:10PM (#47519517)

    Makes the Patriot Act seem kind of quaint, no?

    So now we're going to tar and feather the current President over this, right? Since he's far worse?

    What's that, no? Just vaguely complain?

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @09:51PM (#47520039) Homepage Journal

    On the page 48 of this document [firstlook.org]
    EXAMPLES OF TERRORISM AND/OR TERRORIST ACTIVITIES

    3.18.1 destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities .....
    3.18.13 damaging a protected computer used in interstate or foreign commerce or that is used exclusively by a financial institution or the United States Government ...
    3.18.18 damage to Government property
    3.18.19 destruction of communication lines, stations, or systems ...

    Well, AFAIC under these definitions the IRS are terrorists.

    ...
    3.18.29 the use of weapons of mass destruction ...
    3.18.34 harboring TERRORISTS
    3.18.35 providing material support to TERRORISTS
    3.18.36 providing material support to terrorist organizations
    3.18.37 financing TERRORISM
    3.18.38 receiving military-type training from a FTO
    3.18.39 torture
    3.18.40 developing, transfering, possessing, or threatening to use atomic weapons ...
    3.18.46 manufacturing, distributing, or possessing controlled substances intending to provide anything of pecuniary value to a FTO, member, or group

    Under these definition USA government is a terrorist organization.

  • Thoughts of a free man:

    "Execuitive branch"?

    State, Treasury, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Defense, Health and Human Services,
    Housing and Urban Development,
    Transportation, Energy, Education, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security ...Agricultural terrorist? Actually that makes sense with all the amfo they have. They probably have more of it than some states have in TNT equivalent nuclear arms.

    On a completely unrelated note, farmers need drones, don't they? Big ones, for dusting crops, herding

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