AMU Homeland Security Opinion

Terrorists Evading Detection: Too Late, Too Many

By Shelley Smith
The continual saga persists of the government not using its consolidated terrorist watch list effectively. Terrorist suspects can still pass undetected through screening processes. Homeland Security agencies and Customs and Border Protection are still encountering situations where it identified a subject from a watch list record and were processed at a port of entry, admitting them into the United States. Data from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) revealed individuals who were on the government’s “no-fly” list have passed undetected through airline’s passenger screening process and flew internationally.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) receives approximately 2,000 requests each month from individuals requesting removal of their names from the watch list that has resulted from the high rate of error highlighted in the OIG audit, the DHS is still unable to meet the goals of resolving cases within a 30 day processing time. The average processing time is about 44 days. To address these problems the Government Accountability Office (GAO), issued another report, Terrorist Watch List Screening Efforts to Help Reduce Adverse Effects on the Public.
The challenges of clearing names from the watch list also results from the failure of different DHS offices to share information under TRIP. Travelers can be misidentified on the watch list on a domestic flight and the information not shared with Customs and Border Protection, resulting in the traveler not cleared for border crossings. In February 2007, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) established a program to consolidate the process of appeals and designed the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) for those who want their names removed from the list.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) in the U.S. Department of Justice revisited the issues covered in the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TXC) management 2005 audit of consolidated watch list records of names and other information of known and suspected terrorists. The redress activities identified a high rate of error (false positives) in approximately 750,000 watch list records and found deficiencies in the terrorist watch list process. The TSC efforts to resolve those complaints have improved since the 2005 audit. Since then the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) the audit, evaluation, and investigative arm of Congress, issued a restricted version of its report, October 2007 the GAO Report “Terrorist Watch List Screening: Recommendations to Enhance Management Oversight, Reduce Potential Screening Vulnerabilities, and Expand Use of the List”.
Hopefully, these issues will be resolved soon and will re-establish for all more domesticated and friendlier skies.

About the Author
Shelley Smith is an expert in analysis and research on national and international law, foreign affairs, criminal justice systems and the psychology of criminal behavior. Smith is currently working toward a B.A in Intelligence Studies with a focus on analysis and terrorism at American Military University.

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