WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Tuesday welcomed the Administration’s announcement of the creation of a Terrorist Screening Center that will enable federal, state, and local officials to tap into 12 separate terrorist watch lists now located in nine different federal agencies.
“I’m glad it didn’t take a terrorist’s wake-up call to get this done,” Lieberman said. “Everyone agreed these lists needed to be consolidated, from the President on down. The Administration fumbled for two years, but I’m pleased it has finally begun to consolidate the watch list information.” Lieberman was an advocate of consolidating the lists and had repeatedly pressed the Administration to do so in order to provide better security to the American people. Last month, he called on President Bush to issue an executive order requiring consolidation of all federal terrorist watch lists so that state, local, and federal agencies could access one list. He said Ridge, as the top official in charge of homeland security, should be responsible for consolidating and disseminating the lists. In a subsequent letter to Ridge, Lieberman said the Administration’s failure to consolidate the lists was exposing Americans to “unacceptable risk.” On Tuesday, Lieberman offered a few words of caution. “It is critical that information from these lists be shared with all official parties that might have a need,” Lieberman said. “One watch list available 24/7 is what our national, state and local defenders need. This Administration has been slow to learn how important these first defenders are – they must be nourished with proper funding, easy access to terrorist information, and respect for their information. “The new consolidated list will be lodged with the FBI, and while the FBI’s reputation for sharing information and for performing complex technological tasks is notoriously poor, we can only hope that things will be different this time. I would feel more secure if this new center were located at the Department of Homeland Security.”