Internal U.S. government standards for determining whether individuals should be added to a terrorism watchlist have been leaked to the media.
The Intercept, an investigative news website, on Wednesday published the government's "Watchlisting Guidance," which was current as of March 2013, the New York Times reported. The Intercept indicated that the internal rules were obtained by a source other than former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is well known for his collaboration with the website.
The watchlist rule book says that incriminating actions that would implicate an individual include traveling to a terrorist training school or having multiple contacts with known terrorists. Practices protected under the First Amendment, such as religious beliefs or communications that malign U.S. policies, are not enough to warrant placement on the no-fly list. However, the rules note that actions that are protected under the First Amendment for U.S. citizens do not apply to foreigners in other countries. Incitement or the encouragement of extremist strikes can be used to suggest someone for inclusion on the watchlist.
In May, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder argued that the watchlist standards should remain confidential. "If the guidance were released, it would provide a clear road map to undermine the government's screening efforts, a key counterterrorism measure, and thus its disclosure reasonably could be expected to cause significant harm to national security," Holder said in a court affidavit.
The government entity responsible for deciding who is placed on the terrorism watchlist is the Terrorism Screening Center, a branch of the FBI. The bureau did not return a request for comment.