State and local police officers fail to notify federal authorities about encounters with possible terror suspects up to 10 times a day, a senior FBI official told USA Today. The rate of failure represents missed opportunities to verify possible matches to suspects on the government’s terrorist watch list or to remove individuals from the list whose names had been added by mistake, said director Leonard Boyle of the bureau’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC). Police are asked to contact the center when routine computerized background checks on individuals – who may have violated traffic rules or been in a domestic disturbance – trigger electronic alerts from the TSC.
The alerts indicate possible matches to individuals on the government’s watch list of an estimated 400,000 people. Police notifications to the center result in the identification of 40 to 50 verified suspects each day. Of those, a handful result in arrests. The screening center was created in 2003 to fill domestic security gaps exposed by 9/11. Two of the hijackers were sought by federal investigators for more than a year before the attacks. Both went undetected, even though Oklahoma authorities had stopped one man and cited him for speeding five months before the attacks. “I would like to think that (compliance) would be higher,” said Ronald Ruecker, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.