GAO: Merge terror watch lists

The federal government's 12 terrorism watch lists, which are spread across nine agencies, should be consolidated into one comprehensive, unified database of individuals who are considered to be threats to the country, the General Accounting Office said.

The Homeland Security Department has been working for months to consolidate the lists, and Secretary Tom Ridge said recently that the government is close to achieving a coordinated list.

The congressional audit agency found that the lists 'were developed in response to individual agencies' unique missions, including their respective legal, cultural and systems environments.'

According to GAO, the lists include 'overlapping but not identical sets of data, and different policies and procedures govern whether and how these lists are shared with others. As a general rule, this sharing is more likely to occur among federal agencies than between federal agencies and either state and local government agencies or private entities.'

In its report, GAO said HSD has taken responsibility for merging the lists and for the border and transportation security blueprint. But, GAO said, 'We were not provided enough information to evaluate those efforts.'

A department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman said the Connecticut Democrat considers the lack of list consolidation a major problem.

Sen. Lieberman 'has long been a critic of the Bush administration's inability to stem the historical rivalries between intelligence agencies that are highlighted by the GAO report,' the spokeswoman said.

'Part of the way Sen. Lieberman thought those conflicts would be resolved would be to put the job of consolidating intelligence in the Homeland Security Department,' she said. 'But the administration did not agree and has put the Terrorist Threat Integration Center in the CIA, which is only going to restore and exacerbate the rivalries among the intelligence agencies.'

Jim Flyzik, a former adviser to Ridge and now a partner in the consulting firm of Guerra, Kiviat and Flyzik, said, 'I know work on consolidating the lists is ongoing. There are a lot of organizational issues to work through. They are working to get agreements in place among the agencies for information sharing'it is a fairly complex task.'

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