Dec. 4 target set for terrorist list

The Terrorist Screening Center now expects to complete a restructuring of its terrorist watch list database by Dec. 4, officials told Congress this week.

The March 25 joint hearing of the House Judiciary Committee's Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee and the House Select Committee on Homeland Security's Intelligence and Counterterrorism Subcommittee focused on the operations, timeline and express purpose of the terrorist watch list being compiled by the FBI-led center.

Designed to keep track of travelers considered to be potential terrorists, the watch list will be queried electronically by other law enforcement agencies, said Donna Bucella, the center's director. However, the database will only include names and physical identifiers to help authorities recognize the individuals. "We are not the record holder for every agency," Bucella said.

Center officials have met with contractors, but there is no timetable for soliciting bids on building the database, she said.

Compiling the list, which has already been delayed multiple times, is complicated because the center is combining information from several sources that use different criteria for adding individuals to their terrorist databases, Bucella said. At least 12 agency lists are being combined for the center's database.

But Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas) said delays are unacceptable because there is no technology barrier to doing the job. "Someone could still slip through the cracks because the government has no ability in real time to check a name against every available watch list," said Turner, ranking member of the House select committee and a vocal critic of the Bush administration's handling of the terrorism lists.

The FBI, not the Homeland Security Department, oversees the center because FBI employees already had the necessary security clearances when the center was created, Bucella said. "It's been a challenge to get the proper background clearances," she said. "The FBI has a large group of individuals who already have those clearances."

But FBI and DHS officials are working together on the list, she said.

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