Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

Leaked Documents Reveal Danger of Watchlist Legislation, Attacks on Due Process

Friday, August 22, 2014

For over a decade, anti-gun activists have attempted to exploit the country’s fear of terrorism in order to expand the categories of persons prohibited by federal law from owning firearms. Dubbed the effort to close the “Terror Gap” by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), gun controllers, including Michael Bloomberg, have championed legislation that would empower the federal government to deny firearms to those on the Terrorist Watchlist. 

NRA has uniformly opposed such legislation as a violation of the Fifth Amendment right to due process, repeatedly calling into question the list’s accuracy and secrecy and the inability of a person meaningfully to challenge his or her listing. Newly-leaked documents, offering unprecedented insight into the Terrorist Watchlist, vindicate NRA’s position.  They also provide an instructive case study of the gun control movement’s increasingly prevalent strategy of undermining due process protections intended to keep the government from arbitrarily stripping you of your rights.

On July 23, the website The Intercept published an article by reporters Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux titled, “The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist.” The basis for their article was a “March 2013 Watchlist Guidance” document, produced by the National Counterterrorism Center.

The guidance report makes clear that the procedure for adding a person to the Terrorist Watchlist simply requires “reasonable suspicion.” In the definition of what constitutes “reasonable suspicion,” the document notes, “irrefutable evidence or concrete facts are not necessary.” Speaking on this topic, former FBI Special Agent David Gomez told the reporters, “If reasonable suspicion is the only standard you need to label somebody, then it’s a slippery slope we’re sliding down here, because then you can label anybody anything.”

The journalists go on to point out that there are ways around even the low bar of “reasonable suspicion.” Persons can be placed on the Watchlist if they are family members or associates of a “suspected terrorist,” or if the government suspects them of having “’a possible nexus’ to terrorism.” Highlighting the absurdity, the reporters point out, “Because the government tracks ‘suspected terrorists’ as well as ‘known terrorists,’ individuals can be watchlisted if they are suspected of being a suspected terrorist, or if they are suspected of associating with people who are suspected of terrorism activity.” 

In a passage that should prove especially chilling to gun owners (who some in government already seek to portray as “rightwing extremists”), the document meticulously explains how government officials should behave in an encounter with an individual on the Watchlist. It instructs the officials to glean as much information from the person as possible and use it in a report to be filed with the federal government. The report should include a person’s “Gun show applications, firearm license, concealed weapons permit, [and] shooting club memberships.”

Scahill and Devereaux followed up the initial Watchlist story with another item on August 5, titled, “Barack Obama’s Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by the Numbers.” The piece provides context for leaked classified documents, including one entitled “Directorate of Terrorist Identities (DTI) Strategic Accomplishments 2013.” 

According to information obtained by the reporters, the Watchlist contains 680,000 individuals, with those plus a further 320,000 comprising the broader “Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment,” or TIDE. The journalists explain, “Of the 680,000 people caught up in the government’s Terrorist Screening Database… more than 40 percent are described by the government as having ‘no recognized terrorist group affiliation.’” The article also quotes New York University Brennan Center for Justice Fellow and former FBI agent Michael German as stating, “You might as well have a blue wand and just pretend there’s magic in it, because that’s what we’re doing with this—pretending that it works.”

These revelations should put to rest the idea that the Watchlist should play any role in determining a person’s firearm eligibility (or the ability to exercise any other fundamental right, for that matter). However, the push for Watchlist-based gun legislation is instructive in what it reveals about the gun control movement’s larger strategy.

The central goal of gun control supporters is to diminish the number of gun owners. Gun control supporters have discovered that their path of least resistance in this effort is to expand prohibited persons categories. In order to expand these groups, gun controllers seek to marginalize an ever-increasing number of individuals as belonging to some unsavory societal category, and then set about demolishing the due process requirements that serve as a threshold for inclusion in the category.

In the case of Terrorist Watchlist legislation, supporters of the restrictions insisted that it would “keep guns and explosives out of the hands of known terrorists.” It is now clear from the recently-released documents that this legislation would have empowered the federal government to trample the rights of a far larger swath of people, who could be arbitrarily placed on the list. Moreover, as we reported with respect to a recent lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the No-Fly component of the Watchlist, those on the list have virtually no recourse to challenge their status.

The information in the leaked Watchlist documents and accompanying articles, and its ramifications for proposed Watchlist gun control legislation, should serve to add a dose of much needed skepticism to debates surrounding gun legislation ostensibly targeted at unpopular evildoers. It is important to examine precisely what types of people the legislation will marginalize and the threshold by which the government will make its determination.  This trend should concern not just gun rights activists, but all who value civil liberties and restraints against unfettered government action.

TRENDING NOW
Democrats' Exciting New Hope Adheres to Tired Old Anti-Gun Dogma

News  

Friday, January 12, 2018

Democrats' Exciting New Hope Adheres to Tired Old Anti-Gun Dogma

Democrats searching for a standard-bearer in the 2020 presidential election lit on long-time entertainment, media, and publishing figure Oprah Winfrey this week, following a speech Winfrey gave at a televised Hollywood extravaganza.

Virginia: Gun Control Tops New Governor’s Agenda

News  

Friday, January 12, 2018

Virginia: Gun Control Tops New Governor’s Agenda

This week, Virginia Governor McAuliffe and Governor-Elect Ralph Northam outlined their top priorities for the upcoming legislative session, and highlighted expanded background checks for all firearm sales and other transfers (so-called “universal” background checks) as ...

Washington: Senate Law & Justice Committee to Hear Anti-Gun Bills Next Monday

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Washington: Senate Law & Justice Committee to Hear Anti-Gun Bills Next Monday

On Monday, January 15th at 10:00AM, the Senate Law & Justice Committee is scheduled to hear multiple anti-gun bills.  Testimony will be limited during the hearing, so all NRA members and Second Amendment supporters are strongly ...

Washington: Substitute Versions of Gun Control Bills to Be Heard

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Washington: Substitute Versions of Gun Control Bills to Be Heard

Last night, anti-gun legislators introduced substitute bills for Senate Bill 5444 and Senate Bill 5463.  These substituted versions will replace the original bills that are scheduled for a public hearing on Monday, January 15th. NRA remains opposed ...

Friday, January 12, 2018

Florida Alert: League of Women Voters Off The Rails

On Thursday, January 11, 2018, the League of Women Voters’ lobbyist, Stephanie Owens of Tallahassee, was in the House Judiciary Committee meeting to oppose HB-55 on behalf of the League.        

Indiana: Gun Bills Filed

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Indiana: Gun Bills Filed

With the 2018 Indiana legislative session underway, a number of bills affecting your Second Amendment and hunting rights have been filed.

Washington: Gun Control Bill Scheduled for Vote in House Judiciary

Friday, January 12, 2018

Washington: Gun Control Bill Scheduled for Vote in House Judiciary

Next Thursday, January 18th, House Bill 1122 is scheduled for a vote in the House Judiciary Committee. Introduced by Representative Ruth Kagi (D-34) in 2017, HB 1122 received a public hearing last year and a ...

Unhappy New Year for California Gun Owners

News  

Friday, January 5, 2018

Unhappy New Year for California Gun Owners

While most of America was busy preparing to celebrate the New Year, gun owners in California were scrambling to lawfully purchase ammunition while they still could. Beginning January 1, all ammunition sales were required go ...

Colorado: Pro-Gun Legislators Renew Push to Repeal Magazine Limit

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Colorado: Pro-Gun Legislators Renew Push to Repeal Magazine Limit

Yesterday, Senator Owen Hill, and Representatives Lori Saine and Stephen Humphrey introduced Senate Bill 52, legislation that seeks to repeal the misguided 2013 law that limited the amount of ammunition a firearm magazine can hold.

Virginia: Dangerous Gun Control Agenda Looming as Legislature Convenes for its 2018 Legislative Session

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Virginia: Dangerous Gun Control Agenda Looming as Legislature Convenes for its 2018 Legislative Session

As the Virginia General Assembly reconvenes for the 2018 session, it is more imperative than ever for NRA members and gun owners to make their voice heard.

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.