US terror watch list tops 755,000 names: GAO

[JURIST] The number of names on the US terror watch list [FBI FAQ] has increased to over 755,000, according to a new report [PDF text; highlights, PDF] by the US Government Accountability Office [official website] slated to be the focus of a Wednesday hearing [notice] in the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. The GAO report noted that "within the federal community, there is general agreement that the watch list has helped to combat terrorism," but said that:

some subjects of watch list records have passed undetected through agency screening processes and were not identified, for example, until after they had boarded and flew on an aircraft or were processed at a port of entry and admitted into the United States. TSC and other federal agencies have ongoing initiatives to help reduce these potential vulnerabilities, including efforts to improve computerized name-matching programs and the quality of watch list data.
The terror watch list has grown by about 200,000 names per year since 2004; critics warn that the rapidly increasing size of the list undermines its authority and throws its accuracy into question.

Last year's GAO report on the terror watch list [JURIST report] revealed that the list contained errors that resulted in delays for thousands of travelers moving in and through the US. USA Today has more.

5:21 PM ET - In a related development Wednesday, the US Terrorist Screening Center [official website] has announced that several federal agencies - including the Justice Department, FBI, CIA and Department of Homeland Security - have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Terrorist Watchlist Redress Procedures [press release; fact sheet]. The memorandum of understanding is designed to "standardize[] the pre-existing inter-agency watchlist redress process," which has been set up in order to "ensure[] that information on the watchlist and related U.S. government information systems will be reviewed for accuracy and that, where warranted, errors are corrected."


 

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