JUNE 04, 2008
State and local law enforcement agencies throughout the nation often fail to notify federal authorities about encounters with potential terror suspects, missing out on opportunities to confirm if they match the government’s terror watch list.
The negligence occurs nearly a dozen times a day, according to the director of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), who disclosed the alarming information during a recent interview with a national newspaper.
The TSC was created after the 2001 terrorist attacks exposed deadly security gaps on the nation’s system. Two of the hijackers (Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar) had been sought by federal investigators for more than a year before the attacks yet both went undetected, even though Oklahoma police had stopped and cited Alhazmi for speeding five months before the September attacks.
Local police departments are supposed to notify the FBI’s terrorist center every time routine computerized background checks trigger electronic alerts from the TSC. This usually happens in the case of individuals who violate traffic rules or are involved in domestic disturbances in municipalities around the country. The team effort presents a great opportunity to catch terrorists living in the United States.
In fact, the watch list was utilized to deny Egyptian terrorist Omar Ahmed Ali entry into the U.S. In 2005 Ali committed a suicide bombing in Qatar, killing one and injuring a dozen others. There’s no telling what his plans were for the U.S.
Today the government watch list has about 400,000 names and the FBI depends heavily on the nation’s local law enforcement agencies to contribute by forwarding alerts. In fact, police notifications to the center translate into the positive identification of 40 to 50 suspects daily.
A former president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association believes some officers intentionally choose not to contact federal authorities. Certainly, that is the case when it comes to illegal immigrants, who could easily present a national security threat.
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