Civil Rights Group Condemns Canada-USA Sharing of Inaccurate and Biased Watchlist, FOIAs for More Information on Program

Washington, DC – Today, Muslim Advocates condemned the expanded use of known biased and inaccurate terror watch lists by the federal government in coordination with Canadian officials.  The Tip-Off U.S./Canada (“TUSCAN”) arrangement is a highly controversial program that allows the United States government to share information about known or suspected terrorists with Canadian border and immigration officials.  Muslim Advocates filed a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request with U.S. authorities to understand the 2016 expansion of the program recently reported by the Guardian. The FOIA is directed at the Department of State, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Department of Homeland Security.

The FOIA was filed, in part, because this program has the potential to expand the use of poorly-vetted information and will likely lead to unjust and discriminatory treatment.

“The inaccuracy of the United States’ terrorist lists is well-documented, and their potential for misuse is compounded by President Trump’s racially charged agenda. To then share this misinformation with another country is irresponsible and dangerous. Americans and Canadians have a right to know if their governments are unjustly targeting them,” said Matthew Callahan, staff attorney at Muslim Advocates.  We need to understand how the United States is sharing watchlist information with Canada, so that the government doesn’t spread bigotry and hate across the border.”

The fact that the TUSCAN database draws on existing U.S. terrorism databases is, by itself, cause for concern. These databases have been found to be both inaccurate and open to abuse, for example by including people for First Amendment-protected activity. In 2007, the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General found that the administrators of the Terrorist Screening Database “had not done enough to ensure that the information in the database was complete and accurate” and was filled with “inaccurate or inconsistent information related to persons in the database.”  Leaked documents reported by The Intercept in 2014 revealed that watchlisting guidance still suffered from unreasonably broad criteria that were certain to place countless innocent people on the government’s watchlists.  Even more concerning, President Trump has expressed interest in creating a registry of Muslims to track their movements, raising the possibility that intentional discrimination is or will shortly be implemented using the existing watchlists and databases.

Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.