More than seven years after 9/11 and the demonstrated need to track known or suspected terrorists to keep them out of the US, the FBI still hasn’t learned to manage its list properly. Cleared suspects don’t get removed in a timely manner, resulting in travel headaches for innocent people. More seriously, they don’t get actual suspects on the list quickly, either, and that has created at least ten entries by potential terrorists into the US:
Nearly eight years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the FBI’s terrorist watch list is so flawed that at least 10 people who should have been kept out of the United States were allowed to cross its borders, an internal audit released Wednesday shows.
Department of Justice Inspector General Glenn A. Fine concluded that the bureau also was slow to remove names that should not have been on the list, leading to outcries from civil libertarians who have long been critical.
The list also audited more than 65,000 names and concluded that more than one-third were outdated. The whole list includes 1.1 million names, though aliases and variant spellings mean these represent fewer people. …
The results of the audit came from an analysis of 216 terrorism cases from 2006 to the first half of 2008. The report said that the subjects of terrorism investigations, even those in the earliest stages, generally are put on the list.
The inspector general’s investigation found that the terrorism suspect was never added to the list in 15 percent of the cases analyzed, amounting to the FBI’s failure to add a total of 35 names. At least three people with names matching those of terrorism suspects who should have been on the list subsequently entered the U.S., the inspector general said.
Both civil libertarians and border-security advocates have legitimate gripes. If 35% of the list is outdated — in other words, over a third of the listings are for people already cleared — then that alone should have both groups concerned. Hassling 350,000 people for no good reason wastes time and resources which could go towards better security, and decreases confidence in the system.
However, not getting suspect names entered in a timely manner could have much more catastrophic consequences. It only took 19 terrorists inside the US to kill 3,000 people on 9/11. With the proper resources, nine or even three terrorists could take dozens or hundreds of lives.
Seven years after 9/11, the American people have a legitimate expectation that this process should be a well-oiled machine. Lives depend on it. A 35% failure rate is a disgrace.