WASHINGTON (AP) - Even as the Obama administration says it's close to defeating al-Qaida, the size of the government's secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the United States has more than doubled in the past year, The Associated Press has learned.
The no-fly list jumped from about 10,000 known or suspected terrorists one year ago to about 21,000, according to government figures provided to the AP. Most people on the list are from other countries; about 500 are Americans.
The flood of new names began after the failed Christmas 2009 bombing of a Detroit-bound jetliner. The government lowered the standard for putting people on the list, and then scoured its files for anyone who qualified. The government will not disclose who is on its list or why someone might have been placed on it.
The surge in the size of the no-fly list comes even as the U.S. has killed many senior members of al-Qaida. That's because the government believes the current terror threat extends well beyond the group responsible for the September 2001 attacks.
"Both U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities and foreign services continue to identify people who want to cause us harm, particularly in the U.S. and particularly as it relates to aviation," Transportation Security Administrator John Pistole said in an interview.