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Over 1.5 million added to US terrorist watch list in past five years

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More and more fliers are finding that they've been placed on the US government's terrorist watch list. Data revealed during a civil lawsuit shows that over 1.5 million have been added to the list over the past five years, reports the Associated Press. And more are being added each year: 468,749 were added in fiscal 2013 compared with 336,712 in 2012 and roughly 250,000 in 2009 and 2010.

The terrorist watch list was first created back in 2003, and, according to the FBI, it allows officials at screening locations to "positively identify known or suspected terrorists trying to obtain visas, enter the country, board aircraft, or engage in other activity." The government calls the list "one of the most effective counterterrorism tools" it has at its disposal.

More added each year

But for the undoubtedly large portion of people on that list who are innocent, the watch list is a massive hindrance. While people on the list aren't entirely barred from flying, they are subject to heavy screening and can have great difficulty obtaining visas. And since the list — and its criteria — is largely secret, there's little recourse for those who find they've been put on it.

That concern is what led to the civil lawsuit that revealed the number of people on the list. The Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a suit in Virginia on behalf of a Somalian US citizen named Gulet Mohamed who found himself unable to return to the US from Kuwait because of the list. The case challenges the constitutionality of the list itself. US government attorneys have sought to have the case dismissed out of fears of revealing state secrets.