Terrorist Watchlist Explodes in Size: 2 Million Names and Growing


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The U.S. government’s terrorist watchlist has nearly doubled in size in just six years, a CBS Reports investigation has found.

A comprehensive examination of legal documents, government files, and discussions with over a dozen current and former intelligence officials has uncovered that the integrated database of persons has been growing not only in terms of size but also in scope, encompassing an increasing number of individuals and groups.

The government’s terrorist watchlist has experienced a significant increase in names since its inception. Initially containing around 120,000 individuals, the list has grown to include nearly 10 times that amount, with approximately 1,160,000 people listed by 2017. Currently, at the end of 2023, the Terrorist Screening Dataset contains the names of around 2 million people suspected or known to be terrorists, including thousands of American citizens, according to a recent investigation by CBS Reports.

“It doesn’t mean they’re a terrorist,” cautioned Russ Travers, a veteran of the U.S. intelligence community for four decades who helped create the watchlist. “It means there’s something that has led a department or agency to say, ‘This person needs a closer look.'”

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