WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Tuesday said it appeared the Bush Administration has failed to live up to its promise to have a terrorist watch list consolidation center operational by December 1, 2003.
On September 16, 2003, the White House announced that 12 watch lists dispersed throughout nine agencies would be accessible through a new Terrorist Screening Center by December 1.
The FBI issued an internal message announcing the center would “begin operations” on Monday but said the “initial capabilities of the TSC will be limited… a detailed plan of the information roll-out will be announced in the near future.”
“It is inexcusable that we have not heard whether or not this new center is operating around the clock to alert us to terrorists attempting to enter our country to do us harm,” Lieberman said. “To think that we still do not have all 12 watch lists consolidated and operating smoothly when we have known of its importance for this amount of time is an outrage and exhibits inattention and irresponsibility at the highest levels of our government.
“We are two years, two months, and counting since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and yet one of the best defensive mechanisms that we could muster, a consolidated watch list of terrorists to keep them out if they try to get in or to identify them if they do slip in, is still not in place.”
Failure to use the watch lists cost our nation dearly when the CIA neglected to place two of the 9/11 suicide hijackers, identified as terrorists in 1999, on a watch list until it was too late.
On Tuesday, the Markle Foundation Task Force on National Security in the Information Age issued its second report. In both its first and second reports the Task Force calls for active engagement by the President to create needed information systems on the terrorist threat, such as an information sharing network that embraces state, local, and private entities and a consolidated watch list center.
In August, Lieberman’s Committee staff issued a report concluding that state and local homeland security officials have not been fully integrated into the Bush Administration’s national strategy on homeland security and continue to operate without critical information they need from the federal government.
“The result of this lack of leadership is that many state and local officials… are left, if not entirely blind, straining to see the terrorist threat and how to respond to it,” the report said.
And since February, Lieberman has called on the Administration to consolidate the terrorist watch lists.
“Presidential engagement appears to be absent when for at least two years, his Administration has recognized the need but failed to consolidate these lists,” Lieberman said Tuesday.