Lieberman blasts Bush on terrorist lists

The Bush administration apparently missed the Dec. 1 deadline for consolidating the dozen terrorist watch lists, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) says.

Administration officials planned to use the Terrorist Screening Center, which was announced in September, as the hub for watch list information. The center was to be fully operational by Dec. 1.

But according to statement issued this week by Lieberman, the FBI announced in an internal message that the center would begin operations Monday, but the "initial capabilities of the TSC will be limited" and "a detailed plan of the information roll out will be announced in the near future."

Lieberman, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and a presidential candidate, has been calling for the watch lists to be merged since February. He sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge in August, asking for a timeline for the consolidation.

In his latest statement, Lieberman criticized the administration for taking so long to consolidate lists after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"It is inexcusable that we have not heard whether or not this new center is operating around the clock to alert us to terrorists attempting to enter our country to do us harm," Lieberman said. "To think that we still do not have all 12 watch lists consolidated and operating smoothly when we have known of its importance for this amount of time is an outrage and exhibits inattention and irresponsibility at the highest levels of our government."

Democrats on the House Select Committee on Homeland Security issued a report last week with 10 basic requirements for the screening center to be effective. They questioned the capabilities of the center to merge the lists, saying it was highly unlikely the center would be fully operational by Dec. 1.

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