The government’s terrorist watch list has grown to well over 755,000 names. The list is used to check land border crossings, airports and sea ports. It has been growing on average of over 200,000 names per year since 2004. The general concensus is that the list will be useless if it continues to grow at this pace.
According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the actual number of people on the list can’t be determined. That is because there are multiple spellings for the same individuals.
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., says “serious hurdles remain if (the list) is to be as effective as we need it to be. Some of the concerns stem from its rapid growth, which could call into question the quality of the list itself.”
According to the GAO, approximately 53,000 of the names on the list have been examined since 2004. There are no quantifiable records of permitted and denied entries after questioning. It is assumed the majority were permitted.
Leonard Boyle, director of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, which maintains the list, says in testimony to be given today that 269 foreigners were denied entry in fiscal 2006.
The GAO report also says:
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) could not specify how many people on its no-fly list, which is a small subset of the watch list, might have slipped through screening and been allowed on domestic flights.
TSA data show “a number of individuals” on the no-fly list passed undetected through screening and boarded international flights bound for the United States. Several planes have been diverted once officials realized that people named on the watch lists were on board.
Homeland Security has not done enough to use the list more broadly in the private sector, where workers applying for jobs in sensitive places such as chemical factories could do harm.
Boyle also urges that the list be used by for screening at businesses where workers could “carry out attacks on our critical infrastructure that could harm large numbers of persons or cause immense economic damage.”
The size of the watch list continues to heighten serious concern.