Most “Watchlisted” People Aren’t Terrorists — According To Documents Snowden Didn’t Leak

40% of people on the US government’s watchlists are not affiliated with “any known terrorist group.” This suggests (to me) that the NSA has started making heavy use of algorithms to identify potential “lone terrorists,” as covered here previously.

What’s more, for the 700,000 people on the watchlist (the Terrorist Screending Database) being listed means the US government aggressively goes out and collects as much personal information as it can about them… that is, collects both overtly and covertly.

The collected information includes all kinds of biometrics (face pictures, fingerprints, etc) as well as handwriting samples, signatures, DNA samples, you name it. Since the US government doesn’t limit itself to the boundaries of the law in collecting this data, the information in your file might include data voluntarily given to or collected by foreign governments or organizations.

And, we haven’t even gotten to the drama yet. First, this latest leak is NOT a Snowden production ™… the documents date to after Snowden went public, so the US government has announced they’re hunting for a second leaker.

Second, the US government was so eager to do some PR damage control with this that, upon being asked for comment by The Intercept, they turned around and tipped off a “friendly” Associated Press reporter who ran a similar story with a much more government-friendly spin.

That is, ran the story first. Minutes later, The Intercept saw the report and hit “publish” on their own piece… before calling up the “National Counterterrorism Center” to complain, and letting the folks know that in the future they’d get exactly 30 minutes lead time to comment on stories!

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