In routine records checks of crime suspects and motorists, state and local cops turn up frequent “hits” against the federal government's terrorist watch list, but fail to report as many as ten each day, a top FBI official tells USA Today.
During standard record checks in criminal investigations and motor vehicle stops, police run subjects’ identities and driver’s licenses against state motor vehicle databases, and national databases like the National Criminal Information Center, a repository of outstanding criminal warrants. More recently, the system alerts cops when a subject is a potential match to the national watch list.
FBI administrator Leonard Boyle runs the national Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), which maintains the country’s consolidated list of an estimated 400,000 people worldwide with suspected terror ties.
Remarkably, Boyle told the paper that the system leads to the positive identification of 40-50 watch list suspects daily. Following standard procedure, the officer involved spots the hit, then the officer or their agency notifies the TSC directly.
Regardless, TSC’s computer system remotely detects all field hits automatically. So they know that each day, some officers aren’t personally reporting back those hits, ostensibly sending suspect terrorists on their way with a traffic ticket, or less.
When that happens, the FBI resorts to old-fashioned police work, sending agents out to interview the officer or other involved parties to find the possible terror suspect.
One national law enforcement leader quoted in the article says the omissions might occur due to officers’ workload, while some may be intentional.
TSC updates the country’s watch list daily if not more often, incorporating fresh intelligence, while wrestling with thousands of identical names belonging to different individuals, variations on spellings of the same names, and aliases used by known bad actors.