Almost a year since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's leaked information was first revealed to the world, US officials today confirmed to CNN a new leaker is responsible for providing additional secret documents to The Intercept. The Intercept is an investigative website cofounded by Glenn Greenwald, the reporter to whom Snowden entrusted the bulk of his documents, and it has recently been publishing a series on the inner workings of the US government's terror watch list. Just today, The Intercept published a new article based on leaked information indicating that 40 percent of the 680,000 total people listed on the watch list have "no recognized terrorist group affiliation."
The documents, which The Intercept reported were leaked by someone within the intelligence community, further show that the separate "no fly" list banning people from air travel has expanded under President Obama to include 47,000 names, the highest number since the list was created in 2001. The new information raises the question of why 280,000 names remain on the terrorist watch list if there isn't evidence linking them to specific terror groups. Are all of these people potentially homegrown terrorists, or are they part of groups that the government hasn't identified yet, or perhaps they have shown interest in terror groups but haven't joined them?
"no recognized terrorist group affiliation."
The Intercept doesn't have answers and doesn't try to speculate, but it points out that per the leaked documents, both the terror watch list and the no-fly list are actually subsets of an even larger database known as the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), which contains over a million names. Various agencies can add names to TIDE, including the CIA, NSA, and FBI. The Intercept also notes that TIDE is shared with the military and some police departments, including the NYPD. In a controversial move, one of the government agencies responsible for managing the TIDE database reportedly provided information on it to the Associated Press ahead of the publication of the The Intercept's article, in an apparent effort to obtain more favorable coverage.
Perhaps most worrisome of all for those concerned about violations of privacy and government overreach, the documents obtained by The Intercept clearly show that the TIDE database contains at least 730,000 biometric files on some of the people listed, including 118,000 face images and 29,000 iris scans. The newly revealed information comes on the heels of The Intercept's publication of information from a leaked 2013 rulebook for placing suspects on the watch list. Glenn Greenwald himself said as early as July 4th that another leaker was releasing information, but today marks the first time US officials have confirmed it.