VİDEO LİNK :
The Obama administration has expanded the national terrorist watchlist system by approving broad guidelines over who can be targeted. A leaked copy of the secret government guidebook reveals that to be deemed a "terrorist" target, "irrefutable evidence or concrete facts are not necessary." Both "known" and "suspected" suspects are tracked, and terrorism is so broadly defined that it includes people accused of damaging property belonging to the government or financial institutions. Other factors that can justify inclusion on the watchlist include postings on social media or having a relative already deemed a terrorist. We are joined by investigative reporters Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept. Last week they published the secret U.S. document along with their new article, "The Secret Government Rulebook for Labeling You a Terrorist."
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AARON MATÉ: The Obama administration has expanded the national terrorist watchlist system by approving broad guidelines over who can be targeted. Reporting for The Intercept, Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux obtained the government’s secret watchlist from an intelligence source. The guidebook says that to be deemed a terrorist target, quote, "irrefutable evidence or concrete facts are not necessary." Both "known" and "suspected" suspects are tracked, and terrorism is so broadly defined, it includes people accused of damaging property belonging to the government or financial institutions. Other factors that can justify inclusion include postings on social media or having a relative already deemed a terrorist. The guidebook’s criteria also apply to the no-fly list and selectee list. In a statement, Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union said, quote, "Instead of a watchlist limited to actual, known terrorists … the government is secretly blacklisting people as suspected terrorists and giving them the impossible task of proving themselves innocent of a threat they haven’t carried out."
AMY GOODMAN: Democracy Now! invited the National Counterterrorism Center to join us on our program; they declined our request. A spokesperson sent us a statement that read in part: "Without speaking to the authenticity of the document referenced in the article, the watchlisting system is an important part of our layered defense to protect the United States against future terrorist attacks. … Before an American may be included on a watchlist, additional layers of scrutiny are applied to ensure that the listing is appropriate," they said.
Well, for more, we’re joined by Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept. Their new article is headlined "The Secret Government Rulebook for Labeling You a Terrorist." Jeremy is also the producer and writer of the documentary film, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, and author of a book by the same name.
We welcome you both back to Democracy Now! Jeremy, first, how did you get a hold of this book?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I mean, we’re not going to discuss sources. Or, you know, the Obama administration likes to talk about sources and methods, and ironically now, journalists have to be very, very careful in protecting our sources and how we get information, so we’re not going to talk about the way that we got the document. But the document itself is something that has been fiercely and actively kept secret by the Obama administration, and the principles upon which this document is based were fiercely guarded, as well, by the Bush administration. In fact, Eric Holder went so far as to say, in a sworn affidavit in a court suit that was brought by an American citizen challenging their watchlisting status, that it’s a state secrets privilege covered, and that if this were to be released, it would provide a roadmap, essentially, for undermining the watchlisting system.
What we have here is tantamount to a system that’s sort of like a global stop-and-frisk program, because the standard for putting people on a list where they are going to be designated as known or suspected terrorists—the acronym is KST; you’re a KST, a known or suspected terrorist—and there’s no way of determining, if you’re a law enforcement official and you get this information, whether there’s actual evidence against someone to suggest that they’re involved with a terror plot or their phone number popped up in the phone of someone who is suspected of potentially being a terror suspect. The standard that they use to put people on this is what’s called "reasonable suspicion." We talked to former FBI agents, one of whom was a Los Angeles police officer for several decades, and he said, you know, "If I can’t find reasonable suspicion to stop anyone I want, then I’m not a good cop." And so, what they’re essentially doing is saying that if someone, not based on concrete facts or irrefutable evidence, but if someone within the intelligence community thinks someone is suspicious—maybe they’re posting something on Facebook, maybe they’re posting something on Twitter, that they think indicate that they have sympathies in favor of some sort of a jihadist group—let’s go ahead and designate them as a suspected terrorist.
Imagine what could happen, the implication of this, for all sorts of communities. But the way that Muslims, Arabs, Pakistanis, others in our society are targeted in this post-9/11 world, imagine if you are an Arab man and you have a beard, and you are driving your car in a rural community somewhere in the South in the United States, and you have a busted tail light, and a sheriff’s deputy pulls you over at night because of the busted tail light. The sheriff goes up, he takes your license, he goes back, and he runs it. He sees that he has someone that has been designated by the U.S. intelligence community as a known or suspected terrorist. What kind of danger is this individual going to be in now? And let’s say that it’s a case of mistaken identity, that he’s not actually a known or suspected terrorist, but he has the same name as someone, or his number popped up in someone else’s phone. The likelihood of that sheriff thinking he has a suicide bomber in the car is probably pretty high. And so, this could have real-life implications for the liberty and also life of people.