One bit of security theatre gets scrutiny by a federal judge.
A federal magistrate judge in Chicago has ruled that protecting state secrets is not a valid argument for the government to refuse to tell American citizens whether they are on the terrorism watch list, the Terrorist Screening Database. The ruling, signed on April 16 but made public by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois on Wednesday, ordered the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. to give the court the files regarding the 10 Muslim or Arab-American plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit starting in 2005, seeking court protection from what they contend is unwarranted harassment at the border. The magistrate judge, Sidney I. Schenkier of Federal District Court, said the court could review the information to decide whether it should remain classified. The F.B.I. said it had no comment.
This doesn’t mean that the watch list will go away, nor that it will be made public, nor even that we’ll certainly be allowed to know whether or not we’re on it. What it does is provide a crucial bit of oversight: it says that it gets reviewed by the court.
And that is a critically important thing.