What Does It Take To Get Put On The Terrorist Watch List?

More than 200 individuals who were on the federal terrorism watch list passed background checks and were allowed to buy guns in 2010, according to a new government review.

via ABC News

I saw this (above quote) in the news this morning when I was on my way to class, and it got me thinking.  I’ve read previously that it’s pretty easy to wind up on this list.  I read about a news anchor (or maybe it was a journalist?) that found out he was on the US Terror Watch List simply because he complained about the TSA and their ridiculous screening procedures.  So, what does it really take to get put on that watch list?

In 2008, I took my first trip outside the United States since I was a kid.  Back then, I was traveling because my dad was in the military and we lived in Germany for a few years.  Great place, by the way.  Some kids in the US go to a shitty local museum for a school field trip.  We used to go to castle ruins that were hundreds of years old, or older.  That was so much cooler it can’t even be measured, and it is probably one of the main reasons I’ve had a fascination with sword & sorcery novels ever since.  Anyway, on that 2008 trip, I went to Singapore and then the Philippines.  I had a really good time, but hit a minor speed bump on the way back into my own country.

When I was trying to re-enter the United States, I got asked questions about why I was in the Philippines.  I didn’t even give the trip any thought beforehand, at least not in terms of making it back through customs, until that moment, and then it all sort of clicked together in my head.  The Philippines is a hotbed of terrorism, especially in the southern islands, which is home to the comically acronymed MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front, not Mom I’d Like to F***).  I spent about a week and a half there, so it must have raised a red flag when my passport was scanned at US Immigration.

What followed was a long discussion about why I was in the Philippines, what I did there, if I was planning on going back, and where I was going in the US.  Not helping the situation, I was still in the US Army at the time and I was heading back to my duty station, fresh from a ‘dangerous’ country that’s full of people who want to blow things up.  I’m just glad they didn’t have ‘enhanced’ (i.e. legal sexual assault) pat-downs or radioactive nudie machines back then or I’d have caused a scene and likely would have wound up being detained, as well as miss my connecting flight.

Later that year I moved to Asia, visited quite a few different countries in the region, including one that is ‘Islamic’ and even has shariah courts.  I even lived in the Philippines for a while.  When I re-entered my country, I again had a long discussion about my reasons for being there, coming back, etc., etc.

You might say, “But dude, you’re no one special.  Why would they watch you?”

To that I’d say no one is really special until after they blow something (or some people) up, or try to.  No one ever heard of those morons who flew planes into the sides of the World Trade Center buildings until after they did it right?  Or that idiot that tried to detonate an explosive in Times Square, or that lunatic disgrace of a military officer that turned on his own in Fort Hood.

So, I wonder if my name is on that list, based on my past military experience and the fact I’ve visited certain countries?  That’s kind of a scary thought.

2 thoughts on “What Does It Take To Get Put On The Terrorist Watch List?”

  1. Good point Ron. Even most police officers are required to have a bachelor's degree. Maybe it's time to implement a program that requires these people to get criminal justice degrees, or something else related to the field, with a bachelor's as the minimum for entry.I'm a firm believer in not basing my opinion of someone's intelligence on whether or not they have a college degree, but there aren't enough naturally intelligent people in the US looking for that kind of work to warrant hiring high school drop outs.In addition, the people making these policies (to grope children, etc.) should be imprisoned for the rest of their lives and added to the sex offender registry.


  2. Even Ted Kennedy ended up on the watch list because of another person's alias. Basically, TSA screeners just have a high school diploma or less, and their position was mediocre until they became part of TSA.


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