AG Lynch Won't Say How Many Americans Are on Terrorist Watch List

Susan Jones | June 20, 2016 | 5:39am EDT
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Attorney General Loretta Lynch refuses to say how many Americans are on the terror watch list. (AP File Photo)

( - It was a simple question that Attorney General Loretta Lynch would not answer on Sunday:

"How many Americans are on the terrorist watch list?" ABC's Jonathan Karl asked Lynch on "This Week."

"You know, we don't provide those exact numbers," Lynch responded.

"Can you give me a range? I mean, what are we talking about here?" Karl followed up.

"Well, as I say, we don't provide those exact numbers," Lynch responded.

(Speaking on CBS's "Face the Nation," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that "99.9 percent" of people on the terror watchlist "are foreign" and "less than a half of one percent are Americans. So this essentially is the watch list which covers the no-fly list, the Selectee List and others. It is mainly foreign names given by foreign intelligence agencies, foreign law enforcement officers, plus our own.")

Lynch supports an amendment sponsored by Feinstein that would bar gun sales to people who end up on the government's secretive terror watch list. Even the late Sen. Ted Kennedy mistakenly ended up on that list years ago.

The Feinstein amendment is one of four coming up for a vote in the Senate on Monday.

Lynch told Karl that the Feinstein amendment would give the Justice Department "two very important tools."

"[I]f an individual on the list tries to buy a gun, we would have the ability to step in and block that purchase," she said. It also allows the individual to challenge denial of a gun purchase.

Karl raised the FBI concern that letting someone know they can't buy a gun because they're on the no-fly list could compromise an ongoing investigation of that individual.

Lynch said the Feinstein amendment "gives us the ability to set forth procedures not to disclose sensitive or classified information, consistent, of course, with due process and the current workings of law. So, it gives us the ability to set up a procedure to protect those sensitive, classified investigations, which is, of course, very important."

Another amendment coming up for a vote in the Senate on Monday would allow the government to delay a gun sale to a suspected terrorist for 72 hours, but it would require prosecutors to go to court to show probable cause to block the sale permanently.

The National Rifle Association backs the legislation, sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican

The NRA said in a statement that "if an investigation uncovers evidence of terrorist activity or involvement, the government should be allowed to immediately go to court, block the sale, and arrest the terrorist. At the same time, due process protections should be put in place that allow law-abiding Americans who are wrongly put on a watchlist to be removed."

None of the four amendments coming up for a vote on Monday is expected to pass.

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