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Corruption Chronicles

Terrorism Watch List Inaccurate, Incomplete

The federal agency responsible for preparing the nation’s terrorism intelligence reports has provided the crucial government terrorist watch list with incomplete, inaccurate and outdated information about suspects for almost three years.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is responsible for maintaining a consolidated terrorist watch list that is updated daily with new or revised information on known or suspected terrorists. The information is considered a key counterterrorism safety net that is regularly accessed by a variety of government law enforcement agencies in the Department of Justice.

The watch list was established by presidential directive in 2003 so that law enforcement and intelligence officials could have a uniform database of terrorism suspects. Prior to the order, different agencies throughout the federal government maintained separate watch lists that weren’t necessarily shared.

But the supposedly accurate and improved watch list is often unreliable because the agency that operates it is not efficient and is often downright negligent. The alarming details were made available this week in a lengthy report published by the Department of Justice Inspector General. The publication features the findings of an in-depth investigation to determine if the government has quality control processes to help ensure nominations are accurate, updated and include all individuals who should be placed on the watch list.

Incredibly, the answer is no. The report reveals that, in some cases, FBI agents waited as long as four months before forwarding names of terrorism suspects under investigation even though the agency requires the process be initiated within 10 days. Additionally, many innocent people remained on the list long after they were cleared of wrongdoing.

The biggest concern, of course, is that legitimate national security threats were often excluded from the list or not added in a timely manner. Nearly 1 million names appear on the watch list, which has experienced a series of problems in the past.


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