MAY 07, 2009
The federal agency responsible for protecting the United States against foreign threats has instead created a national security risk by failing to include terror suspects on its crucial watch list, allowing dozens of potentially dangerous individuals to travel in and out of the country unmonitored.
It’s simply the latest of many embarrassing mishaps at the troubled Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), which has repeatedly come under fire in the last few years for a variety of serious gaffes. The bureau’s latest negligence was made public this week by the Department of Justice Inspector General.
In a scathing 121-page report investigators document the national security risk posed by the FBI’s systematic failure to consistently nominate subjects of international and domestic terrorism investigations to the terrorist watch list. The failure to nominate terrorism subjects, the report says, can also lead to missed opportunities in gathering important intelligence and can place front-line law enforcement and screening personnel at increased risk.
Investigators found that nearly 24,000 names that appear on the list, considered to be a critical tool for screening known or suspected terrorists, are outdated or confirmed to pose no threat. On the other hand, dozens of terrorism suspects who should appear are not included or their names were submitted after unacceptable lengthy delays.
At least a dozen of those suspected terrorists traveled in and out of the U.S. during the FBI’s inexcusable delays to submit their names and nine of them attempted to cross a U.S. border at least 10 times. In two of every three cases investigators examined, the FBI failed to update information on the crucial watch list as required.
To gather data for the probe auditors conducted more than 100 interviews of FBI employees and officials throughout the country. They also performed tests at the busiest field offices—Los Angeles, Miami and Minneapolis—and sampled hundred of investigations.
The terror watch list was created in 2004 as the federal government’s consolidated database, a combination of lists previously maintained by separate agencies. The FBI was charged with running it and updating it daily as an imperative tool for frontline screening personnel at U.S. ports of entry.
Last year a separate Justice Department Inspector General report was also highly critical of the FBI’s management of the terror watch list. That investigation essentially determined that for several years the agency submitted inaccurate and outdated information to the list.
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