A U.S. government database of known or suspected terrorists doubled in size in recent years, according to newly released government figures. The growth is the result of intelligence agencies submitting names more often after a near-miss attack in 2009.
There were 1.1 million people in the database at the end of 2013, according to the National Counterterrorism Center, which maintains the information. About 550,000 people were listed in the database in March 2010.
The Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, is a huge, classified database of people who are known terrorists, are suspected of having ties to terrorism or in some cases are related to or are associates of known or suspected terrorists. It feeds to smaller lists that restrict people's abilities to travel on commercial airliners to or within the U.S.
San Diego State University alum and Lemon Grove native Kevin Iraniha was put on one of those lists in 2012 despite the fact he says he had no criminal history.
He was not allowed to fly back into the U.S. after spending a year earning his master's degree in Costa Rica.
“It was horrible,” explained Iraniha. “It limited my freedom. I didn't know if I'd get back home to San Diego where I was born and raised.”
While Iraniha said he wasn’t told exactly why he was listed, the FBI questioned him about his recent travels to the Middle East, including Iran where he visited his family.
He was able to come home after flying from Costa Rica to Tijuana and then walking across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Since 2011, the number of people on that No Fly List has increased exponentially to 47,000, according to The Intercept Website.
But that's not the only thing uncovered by the website created to follow up on the information in the documents revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
It also notes that San Diego ranks fourth in the country for number of "known suspected terrorists" by the government.
San Diego shares one common denominator with New York and Dearborn, Michigan, cities ranked first and second on the list. All three have large Middle Eastern communities.
“The general public needs to understand that if it’s happening to Mohammed or Ali, tomorrow it could happen to them,“ noted Hanif Mohebi, the head of San Diego’s Council on American-Islamic Relations.
It’s also the reason why he says people should be concerned The Intercept says there are now 280,000 people on the government’s main watch list that aren’t affiliated at all with terrorist groups.
The government does not need evidence linking someone to terrorism in order for the person to be included in the database. This is among the reasons the database and subsequent terror watch lists have been criticized by privacy advocates.
Mohebi says the report shows the problem could affect all communities.
“It’s definitely alarming for those who worry about constitutional and civil rights for Americans,” he said