Of course, none of these people are on the list for political reasons. The government would never do that, right?WASHINGTON — The government's terrorist watch list has swelled to more than 755,000 names, according to a new government report that has raised worries about the list's effectiveness.
The size of the list, typically used to check people entering the country through land border crossings, airports and sea ports, has been growing by 200,000 names a year since 2004. Some lawmakers, security experts and civil rights advocates warn that it will become useless if it includes too many people.
"It undermines the authority of the list," says Lisa Graves of the Center for National Security Studies. "There's just no rational, reasonable estimate that there's anywhere close to that many suspected terrorists."
The exact number of people on the list, compiled after 9/11 to help government agents keep terrorists out of the country, is unclear, according to the report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Some people may be on the list more than once because they are listed under multiple spellings.
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who plans a hearing on the report today, says "serious hurdles remain if (the list) is to be as effective as we need it to be. Some of the concerns stem from its rapid growth, which could call into question the quality of the list itself."
About 53,000 people on the list were questioned since 2004, according to the GAO, which says the Homeland Security Department doesn't keep records on how many were denied entry or allowed into the country after questioning. Most were apparently released and allowed to enter, the GAO says.
The number of terror watch-list records  more than quadrupled over roughly a three-year period:
June 2004 158,374 May 2005 287,982 June 2006 515,906 May 2007 754,960
: One record reflects one name but not necessarily one person.
Source: Julie Snider, USA TODAY; Government Accountability
At this rate, we'll all be on the watch list in a few years. Or maybe we already are...