- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2007

An audit of the federal government’s consolidated terrorist watch list of more than three-quarters of a million names found that more than a third of the records examined contained inaccurate or inconsistent information.

The audit, conducted by the Justice Department’s inspector general, also found that the watch list contained more than 6,000 duplicate records and that there was no effective process in place for checking and correcting errors on the list.

The list maintained by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center grows at a rate of 20,000 names a month.

Yesterday, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told a Senate hearing that his department has “taken each one of the recommendations from the [inspector general] and are working on those recommendations.”

“But,” he added, the watch list “is and has been exceptionally successful in terms of doing what it was established to do, and that is identifying persons whom we do not want to let into the country, identifying persons who may be in the country and giving us some indication as where they are and what they’re doing.”

The inspector general’s report, published Thursday, said that 270 million people had their names checked against the list every month by front-line agencies, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection and local police forces.

If a name matches, the agencies may contact the Terrorist Screening Center’s 24-hour call center.

Since its establishment in 2003, the center has received nearly 100,000 calls from agencies that think they may have encountered someone on the list. In just more than half of those of those cases, center staff found that the person encountered was a positive match with someone on the list.

But the results of the audit suggest that even a positive match does not mean the person is really a “known or appropriately suspected terrorist” — the center’s standard for inclusion on the watch list.

Names are added to the watch list after being “nominated” by a U.S. law-enforcement or intelligence agency.

Auditors checked a sample of 105 watch list records that had been subjected to a routine quality assurance process by center staff. More than one-third still contained “errors or inconsistencies” often because the incoming data from the agencies nominating that person to the list was “inaccurate and incomplete.”

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