The federal government has conceded 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 variety of hassles. The government's admission that it shares the list so broadly comes after years of insistence that the list generally isn't shared with the private sector, per the AP. 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, calls the 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 says. The list is supposed to include only known or suspected terrorists, but it 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 came in a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in Alexandria, Va., by Muslims who say they regularly experience difficulties in travel, financial transactions, and interactions with law enforcement because they've been wrongly added to the list. Abbas says now that the government has disclosed how many private entities receive access to the Terrorist Screening Database, the official name of the watchlist, it now needs to explain exactly which private entities are receiving it and what they're doing with it; he's asked a judge to require the government to be more specific. A hearing is set for Friday. (Read more terrorist watch list stories.)