DHS balks at IG's watch list findings

DHS' Frank Libutti says watch list consolidation is never mentioned in the Homeland Security Act.

Henrik G. de Gyor

Consolidation of lists not our job, DHS says

A senior House lawmaker has come to the Homeland Security Department's defense against charges from the department's inspector general that DHS has failed to take the lead in combining the government's multiple terrorist watch lists.

Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, backs DHS' contention that the primary responsibility for the watch lists resides with the FBI. 'DHS plays a role but not a prominent one,' a committee staff member said.

Clark Kent Ervin, Homeland Security's IG, harshly criticized the department, particularly the Information Assurance and Infrastructure Protection Directorate, in a new report, DHS Challenges in Consolidating Terrorist Watch List Information.

DHS 'is not carrying out significant responsibilities assigned to it under the Homeland Security Act,' the audit concluded.

DHS chafed at the IG's findings and said the Justice Department is primarily responsible for watch list integration, citing Homeland Security Presidential Directive 6. Issued in September of last year, the directive, Integration and Use of Screening Information, assigned Justice that role, DHS said.

The IG dismissed that argument.

The directive gave Justice responsibility for creating the Terrorist Screening Center, the IG agreed, but that is only part of the task. The larger responsibility, 'to coordinate general policies or strategies for managing terrorist information across agency lines,' falls to DHS within the law that created the department, the IG said.

Cox has sided with DHS in the dispute. 'The chairman believes that in HSPD-6 ... the FBI is assigned the lead role,' the House staff member said. The FBI runs the Terrorist Screening Center, so 'they have a more relevant perspective.'

Frank Libutti, undersecretary for IAIP, disputed the IG's conclusions in written comments included in the report. 'The topic of watch list consolidation is never mentioned specifically in the' Homeland Security Act, he said.

But the IG responded to that comment with a pointed question. 'Connecting the dots and ensuring better communications and information exchange among disparate federal, state and local government entities for counterterrorist purposes is a large part of why DHS was created,' the report said. 'If DHS, or specifically IAIP, does not assume this interagency coordination responsibility, the question remains: Who will?'

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