The size of the US government’s secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the United States has more than doubled in the past year.
The no-fly list jumped from about 10,000 known or suspected terrorists one year ago to about 21,000 .
Most people on the list are from other countries; about 500 are Americans.
The flood of new names began after the failed Christmas 2009 bombing of a Detroit-bound jetliner. The government lowered the standard for putting people on the list, and then scoured its files for anyone who qualified. Officials will not disclose who is on its list or why someone might have been placed on it.
The surge in the size of the no-fly list comes even as the US has killed many senior members of al-Qaida. That is because the government believes the current terror threat extends well beyond the group responsible for the September 2001 attacks.
“Both US intelligence and law enforcement communities and foreign services continue to identify people who want to cause us harm, particularly in the US and particularly as it relates to aviation,” Transportation Security Administrator John Pistole said.
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the government on behalf of Americans who believe they are on the no-fly list and have not been able to travel.
The government will not tell people whether they are on the list or why they are on it, making it impossible for people to defend themselves, the ACLU says.
People who complain that they are unfairly on the no-fly list can submit a letter to the Homeland Security Department, but the only way they will know if they’re still on the list is to try to fly again.