Review of the Terrorist Screening Center
(Redacted for Public Release)
Audit Report 05-27
Office of the Inspector General
The objectives of the audit were to determine whether the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC): 1) has implemented a viable strategy for accomplishing its mission; 2) is effectively coordinating with participating agencies; and 3) is appropriately managing terrorist-related information to ensure that a complete, accurate, and current watch list is developed and maintained.
Scope and Methodology
We performed our audit in accordance with Government Auditing Standards issued by the Comptroller General of the United States, and accordingly, included such tests of the records and procedures that we considered necessary. Our audit covered but was not limited to the period of September 16, 2003, through April 2005.
To accomplish our objectives, we conducted work primarily at the TSC, located in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and interviewed contractors and representatives from various participating Departments working within the Operations Branch, Information Technology Branch, Administration Branch, TSC Call Center, Customer Service Unit, Nominations Unit, and other support areas. Additionally, we visited other federal law enforcement agencies whose work related to TSC operations, such as the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, or NCTC. We also held interviews with the Director of the FBI’s Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, as well as FBI officials at FBI Headquarters from the Counterterrorism Watch (CT Watch); Budget Formulation and Presentation Unit; and the Executive Assistant Director and Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterterrorism Division. We visited the Chicago FBI Field Office and held meetings with the Assistant Special Agent in Charge and agents from the Chicago Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).
We performed various tests of the Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File (VGTOF), the State Department’s TIPOFF system, the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) and the Oracle and Access Encounter Management databases used by the TSC. (The results of our testing are presented in Chapters 7 and 8 of this report.) We performed queries on the TSDB 1B as a whole to assist in verifying the integrity of the database information for the purposes of our audit objectives only. We did not test the integrity of the database from an Information Systems perspective, and do not opine on the system infrastructure as a whole. Specifically, we performed multiple queries on the consolidated database using the most restrictive definition of a duplicate record – all five identifying fields identical. We did not test other combinations. We also performed queries on the quantity of data in the TSDB 1B and the sources from which it was obtained. In addition, we queried the total number of records without a handling code applied, and the total number of records within each handling and INA code.
We performed a detailed analysis of the electronic VGTOF file we received from CJIS, as well as on the Access file we received on the encounter management information. On the VGTOF file, we reviewed the quality and quantity of data being provided to the TSC, the accuracy of the data entry performed by the field offices, and the application of handling codes. On the Access file, we reviewed the completeness, accuracy, and timeliness of data entry and call response, the quality of feedback recorded in the database, encounters by location, and the number of resolutions overturned by CT Watch.
We also conducted testing of a limited number of records in the database and the encounters that have taken place. Although our sample was small, we consider even one error to be significant because of the potential impact that one missing record or one inefficient encounter could have on counterterrorism activities. We selected a judgmental sample of 59 records from the VGTOF database based on the handling codes assigned, and 51 records from the TIPOFF database based on the INA Codes assigned, and traced them forward to determine if those names existed within the TSDB, and whether the information on such persons was accurate. Appropriate follow-up was conducted on names not included in the TSDB and inaccuracies in the information reviewed. In addition, we selected a number of terrorists and terrorist aliases recently acknowledged by the FBI, the DOS, and various press releases to determine if the TSDB contained records for these individuals.
Further, we selected a judgmental sample of ten positive, ten negative, and ten inconclusive hits from the Encounter Management database that originated in Chicago and traced them through the encounter process to CT Watch and the deployment of the Chicago JTTF, identifying what communication was then fed back to CT Watch and the TSC. Negative hits were reviewed to determine the timeliness and adequacy of the call resolution.
Finally, we reviewed legislative material regarding the creation, establishment, and maintenance of the TSC, as well as manuals, policies and procedures, memorandum, correspondence, and electronic communications related to the TSC. We also reviewed and collected various records and documents as needed, including financial documents, strategic planning documents, workload data, position descriptions, prior audit reports, and reports to Congress.