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Even Those Cleared of Crimes Can Stay on F.B.I.’s Watch List

New documents have been released by the F.B.I. recently that indicate that the F.B.I. is allowed to keep people on the terrorist watch list even if they have been acquitted of their crimes or if their charges were dropped. These files show, for the first time, some of the criteria for a person to be put onto the terrorist watch list, how a person might be removed from this list, and how the police are supposed to react when they encounter someone that is on the list. Being on the F.B.I.’s watch list can lead to being kept off of planes; being kept out of the country if you are not a citizen; and much closer examination while at airports, the US border, or during routine traffic stops. The director of the F.B.I.’s Terrorist Screening Center Timothy Healy insists that the documents illustrates how the government attempts to abide by civil liberties by making the process of putting a person on the list very thought out and thorough. Naturally, there are many civil liberties groups that are up in arms about this newly released information.

As far as this being related to class, this is an example of how networks can go as far as violate someone’s civil rights. Obviously a terrorist watch list is something that we need in this country; there’s really no arguing that. However, when you are acquitted of crimes that could be related to terrorism, you should be taken off of the list regardless. If you imagine government bodies (F.B.I., local and state police, border patrol) as nodes, they will be connected together with edges that represent the ability to transfer this information to one another. You can also imagine that the people on the list are nodes, but they have no idea on this list so none of them will be connected to the government agencies. With these edges in place, a local policeman can pull over someone for speeding, go to his computer, and find out that this person is actually on the terrorist watch list. This new information instructs police to respond to the situation differently because of the fact that the person is on this list. Not only could you possibly be detained by police and taken to Homeland Security, but you are essentially presumed guilty because you have been labeled as a possible terrorist. In America you are innocent until proven guilty which is why information networks such as this could possibly have adverse side effects.


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October 2011