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The Federal No-Fly List Has Increased By How Much in the Last Year?

TSA security personnel
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

The federal government’s secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or in the US has more than doubled over the last year, despite President Obama’s administration’s insistence that they are close to defeating al-Qaeda.

The list has jumped from 10,000 known or suspected terrorist to 21,000. Only about 500 of those listed are Americans. The surge is due to the fact that the government lowered the standard for adding people to the list after the attempted bombing of a flight headed to Detroit in December of 2009.

One significant change in the listing policy is that a person no longer has to be considered only a threat to aviation to be put on the no-fly list. People who are suspected of being a broader threat to security or who have attended a terror training camp are also put on the list.

The list is growing even as the government faces a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union for Americans who believe they are wrongly included on the no-fly list and are unable to fly for work or to see family. Because they’re added to the list without their knowledge, some of these people end up stranded in other countries, unable to fly back to the US.

Since the list is secret, a person won’t know they’re on the list until he or she tries to fly. In order to be removed from the list, a person can send a letter to the Homeland Security Department to protest. If there isn’t enough information to justify having a person on the list, the Terrorist Screening Center will downgrade that person to a different list. But if someone protests, there’s no guarantee of removal and the person won’t know whether or not they’re off the list until they try to fly again.

The list also grew to 20,000 back in 2004, which caused people like Senator Ted Kennedy to get stopped before flying, but a lot about the listing and screening process has changed since then to make screening accurate.



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