The government's master watch list of known or suspected terrorists continues to be marred by errors and inconsistencies that can obstruct the capture of terrorists or cause innocent people to be detained by U.S. authorities, the Justice Department's inspector general said yesterday.
As one of the most powerful intelligence tools created by the Bush administration after the 2001 attacks, the watch list is used to screen about 270 million people a month and its content can determine whether people are allowed to fly on airplanes or detained after routine traffic stops.
Its size has more than quadrupled since its creation in 2004, to the point that it contained more than 720,000 records as of April, according to the new report. It is growing at the rate of more than 20,000 records a month.
But Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said its management by the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) "continues to have significant weaknesses," producing a high error rate and a slow response to complaints from citizens.
In an examination of 105 records, for example, the auditors found that 38 percent of the records contained errors or inconsistencies that the TSC's own quality-assurance efforts had not found. They also discovered that the TSC is operating two versions of the database in tandem without ensuring that their contents are identical, which they said could result in missed opportunities to identify terrorists. (MORE)