The Terror watch list database or what is commonly referred to as the Terrorist Screening Database is the core terrorist watch list consolidated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at the Terrorist Screening Centre. The terrorist Screening database is also used by various agencies. The reason for this could be to generate their specific watch list database and terror screening matches. Immediately after the September 11, 2001 terror attack on American soil by suspected Al-Qaeda loyalists, the then-President George .w. Bush in September 2003 issued the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 6 (HSPD-6), establishing a terrorist screening centre to support the efforts U.S Government in gathering terror intelligence and terrorist screening services (Anon, 2009).
To this extend, terrorist match criteria’s and watch functions which were initially performed by the Department of State’s (DOS’s), Bureau of Intelligence and Research were then immediately transferred to the newly established Terrorist Screening Centre and the Terrorist Threat Integration Centre (TTIC) which changed name to the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC).
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The watch list database serves as a vital tool for screening purposes and uses by law enforcement personnel who notify the users of any possible matches with suspected terrorists. After an encounter with a suspect, instruction on how to respond to the suspect is provided to the user for necessary action to be taken. The watch list is normally updated with revised bio-data information on the suspected terrorists gathered by intelligence organs within the Federal Government.
The first and foremost weakness of the watch list is poor data administration , this is because the user agencies don't adhere to a similar method and procedure for adding or retrieving persons from the watch list, which eventually amounts to compromised entries in the database (Singel, 2011). There is need to adopt an efficient and reliable way of storing data which would largely assist the agencies in managing and using of the data. The policy framework for withdrawing and omitting individual from the watch list are not consistent between the Federal government agencies. Different department follow different policy criterion and conduct when it comes to data tabulation and manipulation.
There also exists a weakness in the sourcing and incorporation of information from the federal agencies which has been relatively slow which required the integration databases sourced from 12 federal agencies. It is well understood that two years after the date of consolidation only 10 out of 12 data bases have been integrated, this signifies that there still remains more work to be done to harness the full potential of the list’s usefulness considering the fact that the two left out data bases play a vital role in automated fingerprint identification. There also exists a number of inconsistent data records, these compromises the level of data quality that is sourced from within the multiple federal agencies. The centre needs to deploy appropriate data audit techniques so as to preserve the reliability and consistency of the data. Details about the ways for inclusion of the watch list must be decisively protected for the list to be effective (Anon, 2009).
Terror watch list data base was established in 2003 to boost communication amongst multiple federal government agencies for cross-examining of information about terror suspects. Different agencies were in custody of their own separate list and with that, there was no available system to sharing this information between the agencies (ACLU, 2010).
The Consolidated terror watch list data base has the capability of identifying information about well known or fairly suspected terrorists who have being involved in any terror activity whether domestically or internationally. It has the ability to support the front-line screening agencies which enables a positive match on known or suspected terror identities trying to secure visas, entry into the country, boarding of planes, or engage in any unlawful errand, the consolidated Terrorist Watch list is one of the most effective counterterrorism system for the U.S. government because of the incorporation of a single database used for identifying information about persons who are believed to have engaged in terror activities (ACLU, 2010).
Solutions to the Weakness
By adopting proper data administration and management practices, the user agencies should develop criteria’s that will aid them to manage the data as an organisational resource. There is also need to adopt an efficient and reliable way of storing data which would largely assist the agencies in managing and using of the data. The policy framework for withdrawing and omitting individual from the watch list should be made consistent within the user agencies for the sake of uniformity in procedures used by the agencies when it comes to managing of the data.
The information policy between the user agencies need to redone to enable the agencies to develop a consistent and uniformed criterion of classifying, sharing and managing information amongst the agencies. This is because a general rule of information exchange and handling needs to be specified to avert issues of inconsistency of information, this will also assist to specify the rules to be used when handling the data (Anon, 2009).
Importance of Technology is Eradication of Terror Problems
With effective communications between the user organisations, errors that are associated with inconsistency of data matches can be minimised especially if an efficient information policy is put in place to provide for the rules of information exchange. The best way to initiate technological improvements into the systems is by introducing a more sophisticated system that involves more personal biographical data information about an individual on the list, these enables the user organisation to come up with a variety of contact details on a particular suspect hence decreasing the chances of having a ‘false positive’.
Another way of enhancing technological improvements into the system is by incorporating the data from the two data base system which plays a vital role in automated fingerprint identification; these will further aid the organisations to capture a more accurate identification match when screening individual suspects (Singel, 2011).
To enhance a better incorporation and sharing of the terror watch list data base, The Homeland Security and other intelligence agencies should in collaboration with each other, use the watch list in a bid to congregate and standardize the Federal intelligence system watch list organs and regulations (ACLU, 2010). The agencies also need to ascertain and execute the most preferred and effective consolidated watch list data base that would provide for the useful strategy that can be used in describing of a more reliable and effective policy frameworks that can be used for sharing amongst the user agencies and tackling of any legal issues arising from the screening exercise.
The U.S ability in achieving its homeland security success depends largely on its ability to acquire reliable information from the right people at the right time. The Terrorist watch list data base only makes up to a small portion of this success. Currently the federal system watch list has been compromised by myriad challenges, among which data and information sharing is taking place in some cases and not functioning in some other places.
To make drastic improvements on the prevailing scenario, the Federal leadership need not only to engaged the federal agencies in maintaining and using watch lists, but also involve the entire state, local authorities and the private sector user agencies in the screening exercise, these is with a view of accommodating all the state entities and actors in the securing of the borders. Securing of the U.S borders should also take a collective responsibility dimension where each and every actor whether an individual, state or non-state actor should take part in the securing of the U.S against any form of terror threats and aggression.
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