The Nation

May 29, 2012 8:12 PM by Matt Stafford

Keeping an eye on terrorism

Homeland Security says they average 55 daily encounters with known or suspected terrorists, according to a Reuters report. Officials say usually the contact is people popping up on government watch lists, like while traveling. Most don't end up in jail, but that pace adds up to more than 20,000 interactions each year.

"That doesn't really sound high to me," says retired Army Lt. Col. Joe Ruffini; who now writes, researches, and gives presentations on terrorism related topics through JPR & Associates LLC based in Colorado Springs. "I mean, when you we've got a world population in the billions, and that as of 2010 between the handful of lists that the authorities use internationally there were already over a million people on all the watch lists combined, I don't think upwards of 50 or 60 (on average each day) is that unusual."

The number of tips, according to the report, is said to be between 100 and 150 every day; about 60 percent come from border or airport security posts, the rest come from local police.

There's debate on the watch lists; the American Civil Liberties Union agrees with Ruffini that the watch lists used by different government agencies add up to more than a million names. On their website they say:

"Terrorist watch lists must be tightly focused on true terrorists who pose a genuine threat. Bloated lists are bad because... they ensnare many innocent travelers as suspected terrorists... and.... they waste screeners' time and divert their energies from looking for true terrorists."

"It's the cost of doing business; there's going to be mistakes when you're trying to protect an entire traveling population," says Ruffini. He admits that there are mistakes at times -- people who are misidentified usually -- but he says it's a small amount of the total number of people screened.

For Ruffini, who has given presentations on trends in terrorist activities to a wide range of groups, he says he hears one thing a lot.

"The question I get asked the most all over the country is, with all of the suicide bombers and the car bombs, and truck bombs, going off everywhere else in the world; why hasn't it happened here yet?" says Ruffini. He says, since the attacks on 9/11, it's not "if" but "when". Ruffini also believes there are efforts to change our country from within, as well as recruit from college campuses; he says that may be why we haven't seen more attack attempts.

Ruffini calls that "stealth jihad", and that's what he's watching for right now.

If, for some reason, you've ended up on one of the watch lists and it's a mistake, you can apply to be taken off. Click here to visit the Department of Homeland Security's Traveler Redress Inquiry Program. Then, click on the link to "file a complaint / apply for redress."

 

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