Stripping Rights Away with the Terror Watch List

Mark Anderson
Mark Anderson

The below press release was issued by Mark Anderson, chairman of the Frederick County, Virginia Libertarians, and a 2015 candidate for the Virginia General Assembly:

If you have been even marginally scrolling through Facebook or online news sources, you’ve seen plenty of articles stating the NRA wants terrorists to be able to legally buy firearms. What those sources are referring to is the NRA-opposed and recently blocked-by-Republicans bill, Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015 ­ a bill that purports to “increase public safety by permitting the Attorney General to deny the transfer of firearms or the issuance of fire-arms and explosives licenses to known or suspected dangerous terrorists.”

Essentially, if you are one of the at least 700,000 Americans on the terror watch list, this bill would prevent you from legally purchasing a firearm.

Sounds great, huh? Not so fast.

The National Rifle Association claims 40 percent of the people on the terror watch list have no link to any terror groups. Now, hardly an unbiased source for the claim, but the number is likely pretty accurate, and is backed up by other sources.

The list is made largely on a nomination basis: Someone suspects another of being a terrorist, contacts authorities to express these concerns, and, voila, that name goes on the list. It is virtually guaranteed those nominated will be included; the terror watch list has a nearly 99 percent inclusion rate for nominated names.

In short, if your busybody neighbor who you do not get along with decides to contact the authorities and nominate you for the terror watch list, you’re going on it. Or if you make what some might deem anti-government posts on social media, someone could nominate you and, poof, you’re listed.

Way back in 2014, when the Huffington Post was critical of how people found their way onto this list (it now believes the terror watch list is the end-all of who is a terrorist because of the blocked legislation), it published an article that listed seven ways the average American may find himself on the list. Among them:

Making questionable posts on social media.

Someone could nominate you.

You are related to someone already on the list.

You could simply be unlucky. The Huffington Post uses a 4-year-old child nearly barred from boarding a plane as an example.

It amazes me how the left has completely switched gears regarding the terror watch list ­ going from being critical of the amount of abuse used in putting so many innocent Americans on a government watch list to being critical that the constitutionally protected rights of those very people were very nearly denied.

In 2014, it wrote: “The process of adding people to the terror watch lists is as imperfect as the intelligence officials tasked with doing so.”

And in 2015: “Senate Republicans just blocked a bunch of gun-control measures: Even one that would have stopped suspected terrorists from purchasing a gun.”

If you need further proof of lazy investigative practices, then look at another number thrown around by liberals. Their claim? That out of 700,000 to 1.5 million people on the list (nominations grow by hundreds of thousands annually), 2,000 successfully purchased firearms since 2004.

That does not even make sense. If there are at least three-quarters of a million people who the government legitimately believes are terrorists, and if it’s completely legal for suspected terrorists to purchase firearms, why have only 2,000 done so in the last 11 years?

This is simply the left throwing numbers against a wall and hoping they stick, fooling their constituents in the process.

Who doesn’t want to keep firearms out of the hands of terrorists, or any bad people? That is something everyone in America would support, but denying the constitutionally protected rights of hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans is no answer.

Perhaps if the FBI spent more time investigating legitimate terror suspects instead of compiling bloated lists of people with no connection to terrorism, we could prevent attacks like the one that just took place in San Bernardino. Instead of overburdening a system by including 280,000 people with no reasonable connection to terrorism, our government could use its resources to dismiss those unlikely to be involved with terrorism.

Maybe, just maybe, the government shouldn’t be compiling enormous lists of Americans in the first place. Because this is exactly the kind of abuse it always leads to. That’s why libertarians fight unconstitutional practices, because always in the name of safety we are asked to sacrifice liberty.

When the Patriot Act was passed, many Americans assumed it would only be used to track legitimate terror threats. We know how that ended up. When the government is given an inch, it will always take a mile. That is how we end up going from agreeing to sobriety checkpoints to fight drunk driving to checkpoints increasingly employing no-refusal, forcible blood draws performed on the side of the road or in police stations, a tactic now commonly used in multiple states with growing popularity.

And that’s how we end up with hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans on a terror watch list.

No amount of safety is worth sacrificing liberty, because without liberty there is no safety.