[Photo by Ell Brown/Flickr]

This week, as people around the world reflected on the legacy of former South African President Nelson Mandela as a human rights icon, an uncomfortable piece of truth emerged: The U.S. government had once listed him on its terrorist watch list.

In fact, it took until 2008 and a Congressional intervention to force the removal of Mandela and his fellow African National Congress members from the Terrorist Watchlist, a database maintained by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center.

This begs a question: Who else is still on the list but shouldn’t be?

Of course, that’s an impossible question to answer for anyone but officials with a security clearance, because the database is classified. But a news analysis by The New York Times last month reported that the list has swelled to at least 700,000 people,  “with little scrutiny over how the determinations are made or the impact on those marked with the terrorist label.”

That’s nearly the same as Detroit’s population of 713,777, or bigger than Baltimore’s 620,961 or Boston’s 617,594.

is investigations editor at The Chicago Reporter.