Ridge: Merged terrorist watch list due next year

Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge said the government will combine about a dozen terrorist watch lists into one next year.

Ridge said that the interagency Terrorist Screening Center, run by the FBI, now is carrying out the watch list function. Officials from several agencies at the center check numerous databases to determine if an individual appears on a terrorist watch list.

"We will have it all integrated in the months ahead," he said yesterday.

Law enforcement, intelligence, and homeland security agencies maintain at least 12 separate watch lists for various purposes, according to the General Accounting Office and other sources. Congress months ago directed the Homeland Security Department to create a single terrorist watch list.

Officials from the FBI, Justice Department, intelligence community and DHS announced in the fall that the screening
center would serve as a clearinghouse for terrorist watch-list information. The center began operation in mid-November, about two weeks before its official launch date of Dec. 1, sources said.

Ridge said the center already has helped state and local officials seeking to identify suspicious individuals.

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