The Terror Watch List Database Troubles Continue

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1. Why was the consolidated terror watch list created? What are the
benefits of the list?

The terrorist watch list is a data base including suspected terrorist that trying to obtain visas, enter the country, board aircraft, or engage in other activities. The FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) was established after the September 11 attacks in 2001, to organize and standardize information about suspected terrorists between multiple government agencies into a single list to enhance communications between agencies . The watch list created to collect and maintain terrorist information and nominate individual for inclusion in the Terrorist Screening Centre, TSC consolidated watch list.

The watch list currently includes about 420,000 names, 8,000 of Americans, 16,000 of people not allowed to fly including 500 of Americans. The terrorist screen centre demonstrate, It is apparent once someone on list it is hard to get off it. They allow all government agencies to check the names against the same comprehensive list with the most accurate and up-to date information known suspected terrorists.

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The consolidated terrorist watch list is one of the most effective counterterrorism tools for the US government. Multiple US government agencies are keeping individual lists and they unable to perform invariable process to share proper details. Nowadays, the government do watch list matching on the air lines including international carriers. The security benefit of this gives evidence that many ordinary passengers get mistakenly drawn into the no-fly filter of a particular airline. So inside the government they have to bring watch list matching process and must solve false issues where ordinary passengers have to explain that they are not the person on the list.

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The other benefit of the list is: it is convenient way to supply information’s to the government process of collecting terrorist details. Other than this list can be circulate to wide range of government agencies to deter or detect the movement of known or suspected terrorists. And also it can be used for prescreening passengers from all over the world that travelling and entering United State. When person exits the country by plane, airline officers are to check that person against terror watch list.
This is clearly helping to maintain country’s conciliatory. The terror watch list designed to prevent attacks by keeping a close watch on listed terrorists. 2. Describe the weaknesses of the watch list. What management, organisation and technology factors are responsible for these weaknesses? What communication barriers exist between the organisations involved in the construction of the watch list?

TSC watch list was created in order to support government agencies to investigate suspected terrorists. This watch list has brought many advantages to the government agencies in controlling terrorism. However, there are varieties of weaknesses of this watch list that still need to be improved because these disadvantages have caused a lot of troubles, not only for the government but also for other citizens. The main reasons of these weaknesses are mostly due to management, organisation and technology factors.

“Management is the process of getting things done, effectively and efficiently, with and through people” (Robbins et. al, 2011, p7), and people who take responsibility of managing are managers. Therefore, if they make any wrong decisions, the work process will be impact heavily. This factor can be seen clearly in the case of TSC watch list. First of all, the process of reinforcing information from different agencies gets behindhand in efficiency because of their slackness. To join up the list, there are 12 different databases required to integrate. However, only 10 of the 12 databases were processed after two years. The remaining two databases got stuck because of different structure of agencies, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Automatic Biometric Identification System and the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System are both fingerprint databases. Secondly, government departmental policies for nomination and removal from the list are not synchronous. Different agencies are unable to unify all the information and policies since they have different managerial system for different issues or subjects. Thirdly, although TSC managers were trying their best to identify and correct incomplete or inaccurate watch list records, the problem still remains. It is believed by the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General that the main reason of this failure is due to TSC’s poor management.
Fourthly, problem solving process in management is also a big concern of government agencies. Because of wrongful inclusion on the list, many innocents were troubled. In addition, the slow redress process has prevented these people removing themselves from the list, especially travelers who were abided by law and unable to explain why they exist on the list. Finally, poor data and information management might leave a number of serious consequences. NSA’s suspected terrorist’s information gathering have drawn criticism for potential privacy violations or create racial discrimination, because of the insensitive and careless information selection of the government. This problem also happens with TSA’s “Secure Flight” system. It has been continually delayed due to privacy concerns regarding the sensitivity and safety of the data it would collect. According to Department of Justice Inspector General Glenn A Fine, outdated and irrelevant information had been keeping incorrectly in FBI’s watch list. Moreover, this list even does not contain the name of suspected people who should be included in the list because of their terrorist ties. Therefore, it was revealed that 20 known terrorists were not listed on the consolidate watch list.

Poor management will make a heavily impact on the performance of organisation – “a systematic arrangement of people brought together to accomplished some specific purpose” (Robbins, 2011, pg.05). For that reason, the performance of government agencies decreases because of bad management in setting policies. Hence, public outcry resulting from the size of the list and well publicized incidents of obvious non terrorists found out that they were included on the list. “False positive” was also created due to the wrongful inclusion of people who do not belong to the watch list. The main reason of this failure is because of reckless performance of government agencies. Their watch lists were populated through performing wide sweeps of information that gathered on travelers, they are also using many misspellings and alternate variations of the name of suspected terrorists. In addition, working speed of organisation is also affecting the efficiency of projects. Slow response in solving wrongful conclusion of TSC watch list leads to the lateness in redress process for innocent people who hope to remove themselves from the list. Besides, many airlines are careless
in matching data. They don’t include gender, middle name or date of birth in their reservation records. As a result, the likelihood of false matches increased. Furthermore, FBI is one of the two main resources for the watch list’s database. Nevertheless, a report of Department of Justice Inspector General Glenn A Fine pointed out that FBI had incorrectly kept approximately 24.000 people on their own watch list and supplies outdated or irrelevant data to the TSC watch list.

“Technology is the combination of tools, machines, computers, and skills, information and knowledge that managers use in the design, production and distribution of goods and services.” (Waddell, 2007, pg. 92). Therefore, technological mistakes will also become a hindrance in the process of the project. TSC watch list has lots of errors. A variety of misspellings and alternate variations of name of suspected terrorists name was included while government agencies performing wide sweeps of travelers information to populate their watch lists. Besides, some people were being listed multiple times under different spellings of their names. In addition, many erroneous entries were also found on the list than if the process required more finely tuned information to add new entries. In June 2005, the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General’s report found many inconsistent record counts, duplicate records and records that lacked data fields or had unclear sources for their data. Furthermore, mistakes of wrongful inclusion on the NoFly and consolidated watch lists occur because of the matching of imperfect data in the airline reservation systems with imperfect data on the watch lists. TSC – Terrorist Screening Centre was established to reinforce the information system of suspected terrorist from multiple government agencies into a single list in order to improve inter agency communication. This system includes two types of information: classified and unclassified information. Unclassified but sensitive information is personal information of suspected people that can be shared with other agencies. Classified information is maintained in other law enforcement and intelligence agency database. Recipient agencies of this watch list are: The National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Department of
Homeland Security, The United States Department of State (DoS), Customs and Border Protection, Secret Service, US Marshals Service, White House, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Department of Justice, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The main communication barriers exist between these organisations involved in the construction of the watch list are mostly due to the difference in political system, operating system, information system, functional system, data collection system, data processing system, intranet system, distribution system and security system.

3. How effective is the system of watch lists described in this case study?

TSC watch list information can be used as a tool to help government agencies to identified suspected terrorist when they travel to another country, especially U.S.A. New nominations, modifications to existing records and deletions are updated to the TSC watch list regularly. Its information is used to detect or deter the movement of known or suspected terrorists. For example, airlines use TSC’s data in their NoFLy and Selectee lists for pre-scanning passengers while the US Customs and Border Protection system uses the watch list data to help screen travelers entering U.S.A. The State Department system screens applications for visas to enter the United States and US residents applying for passports, while state and local law enforcement agencies use the FBI system to help with arrests, detentions and other criminal justice activities. Different subset of data in this watch list is used by different agencies for different missions. “When an individual makes an airline reservation, arrives at a US port of entry, applies for a US visa or is stopped by state or local police within the United States, the frontline screening agency or airline conducts a name based search of the individual against the records from the terrorist watch list database. When the computerized name matching system generates a “hit” or potential name match against a watch list record, the airline or agency will review each potential match. Matches that are clearly positive or exact matches that are inconclusive (uncertain or difficult to verify) are referred to the applicable screening agency’s intelligence or operations centre and to the TSC for closer examination. IN turn, TSC checks its databases and other sources, including classified databases maintained by
the NCTC and FBI to confirm whether the individual is a positive, negative or inconclusive match to the watch list record. TSC creates a daily report summarizing all positive matches to the watch list and distributes them to numerous federal agencies.” (UniSA Lecture Notes 2012, The terror watch list database troubles continue).

Besides of helping government agency to track suspected terrorists, this TSC watch list still causes many disadvantages, such as “false positives” or inaccuracies, etc. “False positives” created many misspelling and alternate variations suspected terrorist names made some mistakes that heavily impact on normal travelers. Inaccuracies, government departmental policies for nomination and removal from the lists are not uniform. In addition, many people who are considered as non – terrorists were also found themselves in the list. Moreover, inconsistent record counts, duplicate records and records that lacked data fields or had unclear sources are also bring many troubles to the government as well as normal citizens.

4. What steps could be taken to correct some of the weaknesses?

Based on an article of Geral L. Dillingham of Aviation Safety, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) corporates with the government and the airline industry to use data reactively and proactively in order to prevents accidents and also manage the safety risks.

Besides, the airport security is required to develop an automated passenger profiling system and increase the frequency of passenger’s inspections. The White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security improves their nonmagnetic scanners, voice and data communications, navigation systems such as GPS to set an aircraft’s location and course and information system to confirm protection against outside interference, disruption and corruption. In addition, they introduce biometric systems such as face scanning to identify terrorist, camera images, and X ray machines to catch dangerous objects like weapons, explosives. A “Homeland Security” article stated that the Department of Security Homeland promotes to edge to the homeland risk management. The department establishes security, safety, and resilience
across domains by connecting efforts to prevent terrorism and enhance security, secure and manage our borders, enforce and administer our immigration laws, safeguard and secure cyberspace, ensure resilience to disasters, and provide essential support in assuring national and economic security.

According to the case study FBI official’s claim that the bureau made improvements in better training, faster processing of referrals and requiring field office supervisors to review watch list nominations for accuracy and completeness. By providing a system called “Secure Flight”, TSA can collect data accurately and correctly. According to the article of Ramon Salaverria, technology and software have quickly advanced in the field of multimedia content. These developments have fostered a significant evolution of news and information formats in online newspapers. This kind of medium began its path on the web by offering textual contents almost exclusively. However, the evolution of the new multimedia applications, especially Macromedia Flash, makes a possible qualitative jump in the formats and information genres for the web”. The Department of Homeland Security Instituted program Called Traveler Redress Inquiry Program helps people who have been accidently listed in the terrorist watch lists removed them form the lists.

5. How could more effective communication between the organisations assist with the accuracy of the watch lists? What technologies could be used to improve this communication?

Summarizing information can be considered as a solution. Organisations use the same database can avoid the wrong name in the watch list. Co-operation between these organisations is also essential. There are a large number of information can be exchange by various ways included using comprehensive analysis method, combining data to improve accuracy. Moreover, information is changing. Therefore, people who take responsibility of updating are needed. Organisations have to put more specific information on the list, including gender, middle name, date of birth, recent picture, family numbers and so on which can decline the likelihood of false matches. Better training
for staffs can help improving their ability as well.

Using Information system technology (ITC) to deal with the communication problems is an effective solution. “Information Communication Technology (ICT) refers to all technology used to handle communications, including telephone systems, web sites, and audio and video transmissions” (Button, 2012). Firstly, telephone systems help organisations contact to each other easier. Secondly, people use Internet daily to communicate with each other. Organisations should take advantages of Internet to share each other’s information. Using Internet builds a better communication environment and improves communication efficiency. Thirdly, audio and video transmissions are the most intuitionistic way to communicate. People can understand of a conception better in each organisation’s job, ability, way of work through pictures, audio and video. This also can increase the co-operation communication. According to Fenell (2012), technologies can also enhance mass communication and long distance commnunication.







• UniSA Lecture Notes 2012, ‘The terror watch list database troubles continue’, SAIBTCISB Lecture Series 2010, South Australia.

• Robbins, S, DeCenzo, D, Coulter, M, & Woods, M 2012, Management: The Essentials, Pearson. Sydney.

• Waddell, D. Devine, J, Jones, G. and George, J. 2007, Contemporary Management, Boston, McGraw Hill.

Button A, 2012, ‘How to Improve Information Communication Technology’, eHow, viewed 29 August 2012, <>.

Fenell Z, 2012, ‘How Has Technology Made Communication Better?’, eHow, viewed 29 August 2012, <>.

• Salaverría, R 2005, ‘An Immature Medium. Strengths and Weaknesses of Online Newspapers on September 11’, Gazette: The international journal for communication studies, vol 67.

• Homeland Security, 2011, ‘Risk management fundamental’, Homeland Security Risk Management Doctrine. | |


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The Terror Watch List Database Troubles Continue. (2016, Mar 23). Retrieved from

The Terror Watch List Database Troubles Continue

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