New York’s Senator Chuck Schumer and Governor Andrew Cuomo today the latest Democratic party push for announced a push to limit ownership of guns. They are calling on the feds to add the the U.S. Terror Watch List to the criteria it uses for federal background checks in New York State. Obama only wanted people on the no-fly list to be banned from gun purchases. The terror watch list is bigger and a lot messier than the no-fly list. Based on the watch list guidelines one can be added to the terrorist watch list by angering the wrong person at the White House.
In the past the senator has said there are very few individuals who are on the list that do not belong on the list. There is a federal process an individual can use to address a mistake on the list and it is not overly complicated.
Schumer noted that the terror watch list is kept private by the federal government. Cuomo said that, if the federal government won’t use the terrorist watch list in conducting background checks, Congress must develop a mechanism to grant states access to the list and allow them to keep their residents safe.
“We need to move to close the Terror Gap once and for all. We will continue to push again and again at the national level to put into practice this common sense provision that would do so much to protect the American public, but until we do, today’s push with Governor Cuomo will add momentum to this larger effort. Railing to close the Terror Gap in New York State will send a message to other states – and Congress – to act. The federal government has always been there for New York when it comes to giving us the tools we need to fight terrorism and I remain hopeful that they’ll work with us on preventing terror suspects from passing gun background checks. The feds should move ASAP on this request and I will fight tooth and nail to see that they meet the mark.”
Neither the senator or the governor discussed the two biggest issues with such a proposal, how they would prevent people being put on the watch list by mistake and what the action they propose would have done to prevent San Bernardino, or any other mass shooting (neither shooter was on any watch list).
However the Senator has said in the past the vast majority of those on the list belong on it. And there is a federal process an individual can use to address a mistake on the list and it is not overly complicated.
But is that true? In July 2014, liberal site Huffington Post explained the 7 ways people could incorrectly be put on the terrorist watch list. That list was based on a report by investigative site, The Intercept which published an reviewed the government’s watch list documents.
The March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings. The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place entire “categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted.
To be honest I don’t believe dead people should be able to purchase guns. However there are probably other forces beyond the terror watch list preventing those sales.
The document’s definition of “terrorist” activity includes actions that fall far short of bombing or hijacking. In addition to expected crimes, such as assassination or hostage-taking, the guidelines also define destruction of government property and damaging computers used by financial institutions as activities meriting placement on a list. They also define as terrorism any act that is “dangerous” to property and intended to influence government policy through intimidation.
This combination—a broad definition of what constitutes terrorism and a low threshold for designating someone a terrorist—opens the way to ensnaring innocent people in secret government dragnets. It can also be counterproductive. When resources are devoted to tracking people who are not genuine risks to national security, the actual threats get fewer resources—and might go unnoticed.
“If reasonable suspicion is the only standard you need to label somebody, then it’s a slippery slope we’re sliding down here, because then you can label anybody anything,” says David Gomez, a former senior FBI special agent with experience running high-profile terrorism investigations. “Because you appear on a telephone list of somebody doesn’t make you a terrorist. That’s the kind of information that gets put in there.
Think about it for a moment. One could be put on the watch list because someone who knows terrorists has called you. Or if someone writes blog posts against adminstration policies it could be considered as intended to influence government policy through intimidation. It is even possible to be put on the watch list if you simply “piss off” someone at the White House.
Not only does the person putting a subject on the terrorist watch list need any evidence, but there is no due process for the person put on the list. In fact one might not even find out they were on this list until they try to fly or if Schumer gets his way, tries to purchase a weapon.
The latest proposal from “the people’s republic of New York” breaks two of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the second which guarantees the right to own a gun, and the fourth:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Both Schumer and Cuomo are attorneys. But instead of looking for solutions within the constitution, or solution that will actually put a dent in mass shooting, these New York politicians are mugging for the camera, playing politics with the death of 14 innocents in San Bernardino.
If they were serious in preventing ISIS inspired shootings perhaps the senator and governor would urge the president take the terrorist group seriously and crush them as only the U.S. military can. I guarantee that would go further in stopping attacks such as the one in San Bernardino than taking guns away from law-abiding citizens.