Lieberman: Merge terror lists soon

Sen. Joseph Lieberman this week asked Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge for a timetable for when the Bush administration would consolidate the government's terrorist watch lists.

The General Accounting Office in April identified 12 such lists — designed to provide information about known or suspected terrorists — at nine agencies including the departments of State, Justice, Defense, Transportation and Treasury. Lieberman (D-Conn.) recently called on President Bush to issue an executive order that would require Ridge to merge the lists by the end of the year.

In a letter sent to Ridge this week, Lieberman described the existence of overlapping terrorist lists as "an intolerable failure that exposes the American public to unacceptable risk."

Ridge hasn't made it clear which agency is in charge of the consolidation project, Lieberman said. A coalition of intelligence officers are working under the Terrorist Threat Integration Center to figure out how to merge the lists, said Steve Cooper, chief information officer at DHS, testifying in May before the House Government Reform Committee.

Cooper also told FCW in May that a watch list would be ready within the next few weeks. And Ridge told the Senate Appropriations Committee in April that there has been an ongoing effort to merge the lists, Lieberman said.

"However, last month, a senior administration official reported to my staff that there has been no progress toward consolidating the watch lists," Lieberman wrote in the letter sent Wednesday to Ridge.

Lieberman said he supports the General Accounting Office's recommendation that DHS take the lead in merging the lists. He asked Ridge "to give this matter your immediate, priority attention," and requested a "precise timetable" for when the list will be completed.

"Multiple watch lists in multiple locations do not maximize our government's potential effectiveness in screening out and capturing terrorists," Lieberman wrote.

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