The FBI may include people on the government's terrorist watch list even if they have been acquitted of terrorism-related offenses or the charges are dropped, reports the New York Times. Files released by the bureau under the Freedom of Information Act lay out for the first time in public the legal standard that officials must meet to add a name to the list.
The database has about 420,000 names, including 8,000 Americans. About 16,000 people, including about 500 Americans, are barred from flying. Timothy Healy of the FBI Terrorist Screening Center said the files show that the government was balancing civil liberties with a careful, multilayered process for vetting who goes on it. Still, some of the procedures were criticized by civil liberties advocates like the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which made the request for the files. They include a December 2010 memo to FBI field offices showing that even a not-guilty verdict may not always be enough to get someone off the list, if agents still have “reasonable suspicion” that the person might have ties to terrorism.