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Bush creates terror watch list of 100,000, including U.S. citizens

Under the plan unveiled Tuesday, police officers on the beat, airport security personnel and officials who issue U.S. travel visas would have access to a database containing more than 100,000 names. It would be housed in the new Terrorist Screening Center, a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week operation under the FBI's lead.

The CIA will provide information on individuals with ties to international terror organizations, such as al-Qaida and Hezbollah. The FBI will feed the center its data on individuals sought for domestic terror activities, such as bombing abortion clinics or torching sport-utility vehicles.
FBI Anti-Terror Watch List Merger Hailed
Wed Sep 17, 2:24 AM ET



By CURT ANDERSON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration's plan to merge a dozen anti-terrorist "watch lists" into a single database overseen by the FBI (news - web sites) is being called long overdue by Congress.



But some critics see the potential for a giant blacklist.

"Having a single watch list is counterterrorism 101," said Sen. Charles Grassley (news, bio, voting record), R-Iowa, a frequent FBI critic. "Now it's up to the FBI to demonstrate the technical savvy needed to maintain" and share the list.

Under the plan unveiled Tuesday, police officers on the beat, airport security personnel and officials who issue U.S. travel visas would have access to a database containing more than 100,000 names. It would be housed in the new Terrorist Screening Center, a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week operation under the FBI's lead.

The center will consolidate a patchwork of a dozen existing lists currently maintained by nine different federal agencies, but not always accessible to the officials who need them.

The CIA (news - web sites) will provide information on individuals with ties to international terror organizations, such as al-Qaida and Hezbollah. The FBI will feed the center its data on individuals sought for domestic terror activities, such as bombing abortion clinics or torching sport-utility vehicles.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said the center would "get this information out to our agents on the borders and all those who can put it to use on the front lines, and get it there fast."

Critics in Congress and elsewhere have chided the government repeatedly for its failure to share information about terrorists prior to the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The recent investigation by the House and Senate intelligence committees concluded this failure cost the FBI a chance to detect two of the 19 hijackers.

Larry Mefford, the FBI's top counterterrorism official, told reporters that had the new system been in place in 2001, those two hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi might have been apprehended before they boarded the plane they helped crash into the Pentagon (news - web sites).

The CIA had discovered their connections to al-Qaida in 2000, but their names weren't put on any watch list until August 2001 and were never shared with the FBI, which had an informant in San Diego who knew both.

Among the existing databases to be combined are the Transportation Security Administration's "no-fly" list of terror suspects barred from air travel; the State Department's massive TIPOFF list, which is checked when visas are issued; and the FBI's National Crime Information Center list of convicted felons, fugitives and other wanted people used by police nationwide.

FBI and Homeland Security Department officials portrayed the system, expected to be up and running Dec. 1, as a near-instantaneous way for all the government's anti-terror information to be accessed by police, security personnel and U.S. embassy officials.

Still, there are a number of bugs to be worked out. One of the most challenging is to guard against duplicate or incorrect names from causing trouble for innocent people. Another is to devise a way for people to appeal if they believe they are wrongly included on the database.

Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (news - web sites), said the government must take care not to create a permanent "blacklist" from which it is impossible to escape.

"Our greatest concern is that innocent people might be wrongly labeled as terrorists, with little or no recourse to clear their names," Romero said.

In addition, it's not clear what a local police officer might do if a person on a terrorist database is stopped for a traffic violation but there is no legal authority, such as an arrest warrant, for the person to be detained.

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On the Net:

FBI:  http://www.fbi.gov

CIA:  http://www.cia.gov

Homeland Security Department:  http://www.dhs.gov
Sign me up 17.Sep.2003 14:17

Mother

I would guess that anyone who has ever posted here will be on the list. Should make a hell of a party invitation list.

How About 17.Sep.2003 15:51

Voice of Freedom

How is this database compiled. If by name than what happens if a supposed Terriorist has the same name as yours?

Suggestion 18.Sep.2003 00:14

marv

Some hacker-type should try to hack their way on there and add George, Dick, Don, Condi, and the gang to the list....