Terrorist Screening Center gets new director

Will oversee massive database

The FBI has named Timothy Healy as director of the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) that maintains the government’s consolidated terrorist watch list, bureau officials said today.

Healy takes over from Leonard Boyle, who recently left the FBI for a job in industry. Healy had been acting director of the TSC; several years ago he was the center's deputy director responsible for its operations, administrative and information technology branches, according to the FBI.

As the new director, Healy will oversee the bureau’s administration of the consolidated database with information on more than 1.1 million identities that corresponds to about 400,000 people. The FBI administers the TSC with support from the Homeland Security, State, Justice, Defense and Treasury Departments, as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Meanwhile, a recent audit from the Justice Department’s inspector general found problems with the way the FBI nominates people to be on the watch list and updates existing entries. The IG said the FBI had failed to nominate many people in terrorism investigations which the IG sampled for the audit, and did not nominate many others in a timely fashion to be added to the list. In addition, the bureau had not updated or removed watch list records as required, the report released May 6 said.

The report said FBI has nominated or processed nominations of more than 68,000 known or suspected terrorist identities since 2004. For the audit the IG interviewed officials, reviewed policies and 216 terrorism cases that were opened or closed by selected FBI field offices during fiscal years 2006, 2007 and the first half of fiscal 2008.

The IG also found 35 percent of the 68,000-plus identities on the list that were sourced to the FBI as of February 2008 were associated with cases that weren’t designated as being international or domestic terrorism. Many of the watch listed records were associated with outdated terrorism case classifications or that were unrelated to terrorism.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the audit confirmed the government's watch list system is “massively broken.”

The IG report made 16 recommendations for how the FBI could fix the problems. In response, the bureau agreed to all of them.

Those recommendations included establishing time frame requirements for headquarters units to process the watch list’s nominations, modifications, and removals. The IG also recommended FBI create a process to modify and remove known or suspected terrorists placed on the watch list, as well as a re-evaluation of the watch list records that are not sourced to a current terrorism case.

The FBI has implemented measures to address all of the IG’s recommendations, which are all now resolved, FBI Assistant Director John Miller said.

“These measures have included developing a metrics team to monitor compliance on an ongoing basis, increasing training on watchlisting practices, requiring quarterly supervisory review, improving the accuracy and completeness of nominations, reconfiguring resources to maximize timeliness, and requesting corrections for all nominations inaccurately attributed to the FBI,” Miller said.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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