The list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the United States has doubled in the past year. A year ago, the list had around 10,000 known terrorists and now has 21,000, according to government data provided to the Associated Press.
The AP says the flood of new names started after an al Qaeda operative unsuccessfully tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was wearing a device that contained PETN, a high explosive, that failed to ignite and instead started a fire on the plane.
“Officials believe the U.S. had enough information about Abdulmutallab at the time to put him on the broader terror watch list, which would have helped the intelligence community catch him....The government lowered the standard for putting people on the list, and then scoured its files for anyone who qualified,” the AP reports.
The government has never revealed who is on its watch list or the standards that qualify a person for the list, but among the new standards is that a person does not have to be considered only a threat to aviation to be placed on the no-fly list. People who are considered broader threats to domestic or international security or that have attended a terror training camp are also included now, an unnamed counterterrorism official told the AP.
Five hundred of the names on the no-fly list are Americans. The ACLU is suing on behalf of 15 of them who say they have never been told why they are on the list and are unable to visit family or go to school because of the restrictions. Others ended up stranded overseas after being placed on the list in their absence.
“None of our plaintiffs, including two veterans of the U.S. Marine Corps (one of whom is disabled), a U.S. Army veteran, and a U.S. Air Force veteran, have been told why they are on the list or given a meaningful chance to clear their names,” the ACLU said in a statement on Thursday. “To deprive people of their right to travel without any notice or opportunity to object is unfair and unconstitutional.”