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August 25, 2007

Just a little context missing from this Washington Post article (Chad)

Since Ace opened it up I am going to post on something that has been bothering me all day, the blatant dishonesty contained in this Washington Post Article by Ellen Nakashima.

Terror Suspect List Yields Few Arrests - 20,000 Detentions In '06 Rile Critics.


The article starts with a dramatic flair:

The government's terrorist screening database flagged Americans and foreigners as suspected terrorists almost 20,000 times last year. But only a small fraction of those questioned were arrested or denied entry into the United States, raising concerns among critics about privacy and the list's effectiveness.

...

Slightly more than half of the 20,000 encounters last year were logged by Customs and Border Protection officers, who turned back or handed over to authorities 550 people, most of them foreigners, Customs officials said. FBI and other officials said that they could not provide data on the number of people arrested or denied entry for the other half of the database hits. FBI officials indicated that the number of arrests was small.

...

David Sobel, senior counsel with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy organization, said the numbers "suggest a staggeringly high rate of false positives with respect to the identification of supposed terrorists." He added that "this really confirms the long-standing fear that this list is inaccurate and ultimately ineffective as an anti-terrorism tool."

That essentially sets the stage, 20,000 detentions triggered by this database only 550 of which resulted in arrests or a denial of entry.

Sounds horrible right. An unparalleled trampeling (sp?) of human rights of people who are guilty of nothing more than flying while Muslim.

Here is the rest of the story. Of the 20,000 "detentions" (which according to the article consist of a hearty round of questioning and release, not a rubber hose or car battery in sight, 550 resulted in arrest or denial of entry that is a rate of 2.75 %. Customs and Border Protection processes 1.2 million border crossings on a typical day or 438,000,000 a year. So about .004% of people crossing a border legally are "detained" and about .00012% are arrested. Hardly the rampant abuse of human rights that the article implies.

David Sobel may actually be correct. The Terrorist Surveillance Database may be ineffective, but in my opinion it is more likely to be so because it is not catching people it should rather than the other way around.

It will be interesting to see how the EFF and ACLU react if someone makes it through this screening process and then pulls a suicide bombing in a crowd full of school kids.

digg this
posted by xgenghisx at 07:14 PM

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