U.S. Rules for Composing No-Fly List Leaked to Media

July 24, 2014, 8:59 a.m.

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.

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