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Watch List Update

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Congressional Hearings last Thursday refocused national attention on the Federal "Watch List" -- names of people "who are, or are suspected of being, threats to national security and/or civil aviation." The Watch List is just one element of a pattern of assaults the Bush Administration has mounted on the civil liberties of United States citizens, in the name of its "War on Terror."

NPR, in its coverage of the hearings, used an interview with me to highlight the experience of being Listed. If you missed it last Thursday night on "All Things Considered" you can find it at:

I've been on the Watch List for 30 months. It's quite possible that, like the four-year old children and 89-year-old nuns who are also on the List, it might be a case of mistaken identity. Then again, as President of the Giraffe Heroes Project, author of Stick Your Neck Out, and vocal critic of the Iraq war, I may be exactly the person the Feds mean to hassle.

The inconvenience to me of extra screening at airports has been trivial. What bothers me is the assault on civil liberties. Despite strenuous efforts,
I can't find out what I'm accused of or why, can't defend myself or clear my name - and can't get off the List.

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You can find my own account at

Congress finally seems to have woken up to the dangers posed by a Watch List of public enemies that has reportedly grown to over 750,000 names! It's encouraging that this is not a partisan issue: many Republicans and libertarians are also upset by the civil liberties implications of the Watch List.

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Please follow this issue in the news, and make your views known to your elected representatives as they consider ways to find a better balance between civil liberties and legitimate security concerns.

John Graham

P.S. I have no faith that the List does any good anyway. Last time I drove back to Seattle from Canada, the US border guard checked her computer - then waved me through.


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John Graham shipped out on a freighter when he was sixteen, took part in the first ascent of Mt. McKinley's North Wall at twenty, and hitchhiked around the world at twenty-two. A Foreign Service Officer for fifteen years, he was in the middle of (more...)
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