WASHINGTON (CN) – The FBI failed to remove thousands of people from its “Terrorist Watchlist,” sometimes years after determining that they were not actually terrorists; failed to put on the list people who are tied to terrorism, allowing them to enter and move about the country; and its controls over “nomination” of people for the list without an FBI investigation were “weak or nonexistent,” the Justice Department concluded in a report released Wednesday.
Of 68,669 suspected terrorists on the list in February 2008, 35% were based on outdated information; the FBI failed to perform a “watchlist modification” 67% of the time when a modification was necessary; failed to remove from the list people who should have been removed from it 8% of the time; and in one case kept a person on the list for 5 years after he or she should have been removed from it, the DOJ concluded.
The 121-page report from the Department of Justice’s Inspector General, “The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Terrorist Watchlist Nomination Practices,” Audit Report 09-25, May 2009, was released Wednesday.
Among the conclusions in its Executive Summary:
“As of December 31, 2008, the consolidated terrorist watchlist contained more than 1.1 million known or suspected terrorist identities …”
“Our audit found that initial watchlist nominations created by FBI field offices often contained inaccuracies or were incomplete, leading to delays in the inclusion of known or suspected terrorists on the watchlist. In addition, the audit determined that the FBI did not consistently update or remove watchlist records when appropriate. Finally, the audit determined that FBI field offices had, at times, bypassed some of the FBI’s quality control mechanisms by excluding FBI headquarters and submitting watchlist nominations directly to the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) …
“We found that the FBI failed to nominate many subjects in the terrorism investigations that we sampled, did not nominate many others in a timely fashion, and did not update or remove watchlist records as required. Specifically, in 32 of the 216 (15 percent) terrorism investigations we reviewed, 35 subjects of these investigations were not nominated to the consolidated terrorist watchlist, contrary to FBI policy.8We also found that 78 percent of the initial watchlist nominations we reviewed were not processed in established FBI timeframes.
“Additionally, in 67 percent of the cases that we reviewed in which a watchlist record modification was necessary, we determined that the FBI case agent primarily assigned to the case failed to modify the watchlist record when new identifying information was obtained during the course of the investigation, as required by FBI policy. Further, in 8 percent of the closed cases we reviewed, we found that the FBI failed to remove subjects from the watchlist as required by FBI policy. 9 Finally, in 72 percent of the closed cases reviewed, the FBI failed to remove the subject in a timely manner;
“Because the consolidated terrorist watchlist is used by government frontline screening personnel to determine how to respond when a known or suspected terrorist requests entry into the United States, the failure to place appropriate individuals on the watchlist, or the failure to place them on the watchlist in a timely manner, increases the risk that these individuals are able to enter and move freely about the country. In fact, we found that several persons with names matching the subjects who were not watchlisted or who were untimely watchlisted attempted to cross U.S. borders during the period the names were not watchlisted by the FBI.
“FBI policy allows for the nomination of known or suspected international terrorists for whom the FBI does not have a terrorism investigation. All such nominations must be submitted through the Counterterrorism Division’s (CTD) International Terrorism Operations Section (ITOS). ITOS is then responsible for forwarding the nomination to NCTC. However, we found the controls over these types of nominations to be weak or nonexistent. …
“Finally, in February 2008, in response to our data request, we were provided a list of all terrorist identities sourced to the FBI in the consolidated terrorist watchlist. This list contained a total of 68,669 known or suspected terrorist identities. In analyzing this list, we found that 35 percent of these identities were associated with FBI cases that did not contain current international terrorism or domestic terrorism designations. Rather, many of these watchlisted records were associated with outdated terrorism case classifications or case classifications unrelated to terrorism and had been nominated by various FBI field offices and headquarters units. Our review of a sample of these nominations revealed that many of the records were for individuals who had originally been appropriately watchlisted but should have been removed from the watchlist after the case had been closed. In one instance, we identified a former subject who remained watchlisted for nearly 5 years after the case had been closed.”