Terrorist Watch List Screening: Efforts to Help Reduce Adverse Effects on the Public

GAO-06-1031 Published: Sep 29, 2006. Publicly Released: Oct 06, 2006.
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A consolidated watch list managed by the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) contains the names of known or suspected terrorists, both international and domestic. Various agencies whose missions require screening for links to terrorism use watch list records. For example, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) screens travelers at ports of entry. Because screening is based on names, it can result in misidentifications when persons not on the list have a name that resembles one on the list. Also, some names may be mistakenly included on the watch list. In either case, individuals can be negatively affected and may express concerns or seek agency action, or redress, to prevent future occurrences. This report addresses: (1) the extent to which the numbers of misidentified persons are known and how they could be affected, (2) the major reasons misidentifications occur and the actions agencies are taking to reduce them or minimize their effects, and (3) the opportunities for redress available to individuals with watch list-related concerns. In conducting work at TSC and the principal federal agencies that use watch list data, GAO reviewed standard operating procedures and other relevant documentation and interviewed responsible officials. GAO makes no recommendations at this time because the agencies have ongoing initiatives to improve data quality, reduce the number of misidentifications or mitigate their effects, and enhance redress efforts.

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