WASHINGTON - The Obama administration has more than doubled, to about 21,000 names, its secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the United States, including about 500 Americans, the Associated Press has learned. The government lowered the bar for being added to the list, even as it says it’s closer than ever to defeating Al Qaeda.
The size of the government’s secret no-fly list has jumped from about 10,000 in the past year, according to government figures provided to the AP.
The surge comes as the government says it is close to defeating Al Qaeda, after killing many of its senior members. But senior officials said the threat does not stop there.
“As long as we sustain the pressure on it, we judge that core Al Qaeda will be of largely symbolic importance to the global jihadist movement,’’ Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress yesterday. “But regional affiliates and, to a lesser extent, small cells and individuals will drive the global jihad agenda.’’
Those are the people added to the no-fly list, current and former counterterrorism officials said.
“Both US intelligence and law enforcement communities and foreign services continue to identify people who want to cause us harm, particularly in the US and particularly as it relates to aviation,’’ Transportation Security Administrator John Pistole said in an interview.
Affiliated terrorist groups in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Algeria, and elsewhere, as well as individuals who ascribe to Al Qaeda’s beliefs, “All are in the mix,’’ said Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center. “And no one is claiming that they are shrinking.’’