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The number of individuals on the United STates government’s terrorist watchlist has increased by nearly 100% in a span of six years, according to a recent investigation by CBS Reports.

An extensive review of court records, government documents and interviews with more than a dozen current and former intelligence community leaders revealed that the consolidated database of individuals has not only been quietly expanding in number but also in who it targets.

The figures tell a striking story. In its early stages on December 1, 2003, the unified watchlist, now referred to as the Terrorist Screening Dataset, contained around 120,000 individuals. By 2017, the most recent publicly disclosed data, the number had grown almost tenfold, reaching 1,160,000 people. Currently, at the end of 2023, the Terrorist Screening Dataset holds the names of approximately 2 million individuals identified by the government as known or suspected terrorists, including thousands of American citizens, according to a CBS Reports investigation.

“Just because someone’s name appears on the watchlist, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a terrorist,” clarified Russ Travers, a seasoned intelligence expert with four decades of experience, who played a role in developing the list. “It simply indicates that a particular department or agency has identified a reason to take a closer look at that individual.”

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