The U.S. National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) is adding the names and associated data of European citizens to a secretive watchlist of what it considers potential terrorists at such a rapid rate that one official decribed it “like a ticking odometer.”
Quoted in an article by the Washington Post‘s Greg Miller on Tuesday, an unnamed former U.S. intelligence official described how the NCTC—citing the threat of Europeans who may have travelled to foreign battlefields, particularly in Syria and Iraq—is actively placing thousands of people into the database nearly constantly, sometimes with (and often without) the full knowledge of European governments or their intelligence agencies. According to the report, the database already contains more than 15,000 names.
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Miller specifically reports on the ongoing intelligence-sharing between the U.S. and German spy agencies alongside an exploration of the associated political tensions such cooperation generates in the wake of revelations made possible by Edward Snowden about the degree to which the NSA spied on the German people, including Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In brief summary, Miller’s reporting focuses on how the realities of counter-terrorism efforts and fears of German citizens or residents with affiliations with jihadist groups like the Islamic State have compelled German officials and intelligence agents to move beyond the “residual resentment” of being spied on by the U.S. and once again embrace the far-reaching technologies (and less stringent guidelines) practiced by the NSA.
According to the report:
In another striking admission expressed in the article, another unnamed intelligence official—described as being “involved in producing classified assessments on the Syria threat”—talks about how the number of people being added to the list means that tracking these individuals across Europe and beyond will likely become a project for many years into the future.
“We’re looking at this as a decadal issue,” the official said. “Even if the numbers stopped growing today — if we only had the 15,000 — you’re still looking at a global issue that is going to carry on for a number of years and that is going to test the bandwidth and resources not only of us, but our foreign partners.”