The federal terror watch list includes inaccurate and outdated information, increasing the risk that innocent people will be misidentified as terrorists while terrorists are overlooked, says a government audit reported by McClatchy Newspapers. The report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine recommended that the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies improve their coordination of how terror suspects’ names are added to and removed from the list.
The report helps explain why innocent travelers continue to be misidentified as terrorism suspects despite efforts by the federal government to improve its databases of more than 900,000 watchlist names. Agents rely on the list when screening airline passengers and processing border crossers and visa applicants. High-profile blunders have underscored its flaws, such as when agents repeatedly blocked Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) from boarding a plane because his name was similar to that of a terror suspect. Fine chided other Justice Department agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives for “informal” sharing of watchlist information. “As a result, the potential exists for terrorism information to not be shared with the FBI and for terrorists to not be watchlisted,” he said.