Report: Omissions, Errors on Terrorism Watchlist

A report shows omissions and errors kept up to 20 suspected terrorists off.

ByABC News
January 8, 2009, 1:33 AM

Sept. 7, 2007— -- Days before the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a new Justice Department Inspector General report found a computer glitch that should give Americans pause -- the government office that maintains the core terrorism watchlist failed to include as many as 20 known or suspected terrorist in its records.

"Our review revealed continued instances where known or suspected terrorists were not appropriately watchlisted on screening databases that frontline screening agents use to identify terrorists and obtain instruction on how to appropriately handle the subjects," the Inspector General noted in its report.

"We found at least 20 watchlist records that were not appropriately watchlisted to downstream screening databases," the report continued. "Even a single omission of a suspected or known terrorist from the watchlist is a serious matter."

The FBI is downplaying the audit, saying there's no evidence any of the suspected terrorists have come into the US. The audit, released on Thursday, was a follow up to an initial report in 2005.

The FBI says the computer problem has been addressed and various agencies still could have retrieved the information even though it wasn't flagged or forwarded to them.

In a statement, the Terrorism Screening Center said, "We are pleased that the OIG report found that the TSC has generally made significant improvements since the initial OIG Audit conducted nearly three years ago."

"The OIG report issued today found that the TSC has enhanced its efforts to ensure the quality of watch list data and has increased staff assigned to data quality management," the statement continued.

The Inspector General's office stressed the importance of keeping the list accurate and up-to-date.

"It is critical that the TSC further improve the quality of its watchlist data," Inspector General Glenn Fine said in a statement. "Inaccurate, incomplete, and obsolete watchlist information can increase the risk of not identifying known or suspected terrorists, and it can also increase the risk that innocent persons will be stopped or detained."