Agencies standardize ways to deal with terrorist watch list concerns

Federal agencies that partner with the U.S. Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), which is responsible for coordinating federal suspected terrorist watch list information, agreed today on standards for addressing complaints from people whose names appear on the list.

By signing the memorandum of understanding the agencies agree to appoint a senior official to ensure participation in redressing concerns from individuals who believe they have been wrongly placed on the list, update and correct and secure personal information.

At a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing, TSC Director Leonard Boyle said the agreement is a positive development when he was questioned by ranking member Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on why it took TSC an average of 67 days to complete a review of an individual’s complaint. Lawmakers pressed Boyle and Paul Rosenzweig, deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Homeland Security Department, on potential inaccuracies in the database and ways that individuals on the list can redress their concerns.

The number of records on the watch list — the Terrorist Screening Database — has jumped from 158,374 in June 2004 to 754,960 in May, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office that was released today. The majority of the people on the list are not Americans.

TSC does not receive complaints directly from individuals. People must instead contact the agency that conducted the screening to determine if the concern involves the terrorist watch list. If it does involve the database, TSC’s independent Redress Unit will address the complaint.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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