Too Many Watch Lists

    Date05 May 2003
    CategoryGovernment
    2938
    Posted ByAnthony Pell
    While errors in the Transportation Security Administration's "no-fly" list have famously raised the ire of innocent air travelers misidentified as terrorists, it's far from the only government watch list in use. In a report released this week, the General Accounting . . . While errors in the Transportation Security Administration's "no-fly" list have famously raised the ire of innocent air travelers misidentified as terrorists, it's far from the only government watch list in use. In a report released this week, the General Accounting Office, Congress' investigative arm, counted no less than 12 different government databases cataloging purportedly dangerous people, maintained by nine different federal agencies and accessed by 50 others -- a tangled web of largely incompatible systems that the GAO would like to see merged into one.

    "[A]gencies have developed their respective watch lists, and have managed their use, in isolation from each other, and in recognition of each agency's unique legal, cultural, and technological environments," wrote investigators. "The result is inconsistent and limited sharing."

    All of those lists contain names and birth dates; others -- like the INS's "Automated Biometric Identification System" and the State Department's "TIPOFF" database -- also hold fingerprints and photographs. Some include information on large financial transactions and travel history.

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