WASHINGTON – A U.S. government database of known or suspected terrorists doubled in size in recent years, according to newly released government figures. The growth is the result of intelligence agencies submitting names more often after a near-miss attack in 2009.
There were 1.1 million people in the database at the end of 2013, according to the National Counterterrorism Center, which maintains the information. About 550,000 people were listed in the database in March 2010.
The Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) is a huge, classified database of people who are known terrorists, are suspected of having ties to terrorism or in some cases are related to or are associates of known or suspected terrorists. It feeds to smaller lists that restrict people’s abilities to travel on commercial airliners to or within the U.S.
The government does not need evidence linking someone to terrorism in order for the person to be included in the database. This is among the reasons the database and subsequent terror watch lists have been criticized by privacy advocates.
An online publication, The Intercept, on Tuesday reported that 40 percent of people on the terrorism watch list, which is a subset of names in the TIDE database, were not affiliated with any recognized terrorist organization. The publication cited documents from one year ago.
The growth of TIDE is a result of the government’s response to a failed attempt to blow up a commercial airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009. The terror operative’s name was included in the database before the attack but not on a list that would have prevented him from boarding a U.S.-bound flight. Since then, the government lowered the standards for placing someone on the no-fly list, and intelligence agencies have become more diligent about submitting names to the TIDE database.
Of the 1.1 million people in the TIDE database, 25,000 are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, the National Counterterrorism Center said.
The database was created after the September 2001 terror attacks after it became clear that the government’s terror watch list was ineffective. The watch list was once maintained in a Rolodex and in paper notebooks, according to edited photographs provided by the National Counterterrorism Center.