Follow-up Audit of the Terrorist Screening Center

Audit Report 07-41
September 2007
Office of the Inspector General

Appendix V
Terrorist Screening Center Response

August 28, 2007

The Honorable Glenn A. Fine
Office of the Inspector General
United States Department of Justice
Room 4322
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Mr. Fine:

This letter is submitted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in response to the audit report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) entitled: Follow-up Audit of the Terrorist Screening Center (hereinafter the Report).

The FBI appreciates the opportunity to comment and agrees fully with the OIG that the mission and function of the Terrorism Screening Center (TSC) is a critical part of the layered national strategy to safeguard the Homeland from a future terrorist attack.

The FBI remains committed to ensuring the timely and accurate collection of watchlisting data for distribution to those government agencies responsible for screening, law enforcement and intelligence work. One of the TSC’s highest priorities is to ensure the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) is accurate, current and thorough. When the consolidated watchlist was originally created, agencies and Departments provided all possible data from their holdings to serve as the foundation for terrorist watchlist information. Much of the original data provided to the TSC lacked a validation or review process by the originating agency, which presented initial challenges in quality of the TSDB. Since that time the quality of the TSDB data has vastly improved. For example, as of July 2007, TSC has completed a full vetting of the Department of Homeland Security’s No-Fly list, resulting in an approximate 50% reduction of records.

The field work of the OIG has confirmed that the TSC has enhanced its efforts to ensure the quality of watchlist data, we have increased the level of staff assigned to data quality management and we have developed a process, complete with a separate office to respond to redress complaints filed by persons seeking relief from adverse effects related to terrorist watchlist screening.

I believe the TSC has improved the security of the Homeland by leading the effort to consolidate the terrorist watchlisting process and serving as the accountable entity pursuing watchlisting as its single core competency. The TSC’s efforts combined with the U.S. Government’s (USG) community effort to significantly increased information sharing at all levels of state, local and federal government, has lead to enhanced security. The TSC is fully committed to constantly examining its operations for enhancements in efficiency and effectiveness. The TSC has made significant progress in its mandate to consolidate the USG’s approach to terrorism screening and its leadership makes every effort to ensure the most thorough, current and accurate information is provided to law enforcement and intelligence community partners for a safer and more secure nation. In that spirit, the FBI and the TSC offers the following responses to the specific recommendations made in the Draft Audit Report, Follow-Up Audit of the Terrorist Screening Center.

Recommendation # 1:

Implement its plan to consolidate the TSDB NTP and legacy systems in a timely manner. In the interim while the two systems coexist, the TSC should establish a formal procedure to regularly review the TSDB NTP and legacy systems to ensure that the information in these systems remains synchronized.

Response: The TSC has developed a project plan that guides the prioritization of tasks to achieve the objective of consolidating NTP component with the official record keeping component of the TSDB. The TSC has implemented a daily reconciliation process between the two components in the interim period for routine monitoring of the data.

Recommendation # 2:

Develop procedures to regularly review and test the information contained in the TSDB to ensure the data is complete, accurate, and non-duplicative.

Response: The TSC accepts this recommendation and notes that it has used informal procedures to review and test TSDB information in the past, but has now implemented procedures to formalize this process.

Recommendation # 3:

Modify the TSDB NTP to accommodate designations for both CLASS/Visa and CLASS/Passport. In addition, the TSC should review and correct the records identified in the TSDB NTP to appropriately reflect that U.S. persons are not eligible for export to CLASS/Visa.

TSC Response: The TSC agrees with this recommendation and will implement these changes as part of the transfer of exports to TSDB NTP.

Recommendation # 4:

Review and correct the records identified in the TSDB NTP to ensure that the IBIS handling instructions are appropriately applied.

Response: The TSC agrees with this recommendation and has corrected the records.

Recommendation # 5:

Develop procedures to regularly review the information in the TSDB to ensure that outdated or obsolete data is removed in a timely manner.

Response: The TSC accepts this recommendation and notes it has used previously undocumented procedures to remove outdated or obsolete data, and will now formalize this process to ensure it is removed in a timely manner.

Recommendation # 6:

Working with the TSC, revise the watchlist nomination process to provide international terrorist nominations directly to NCTC for inclusion in TIDE, submission to the TSC, and dissemination to all downstream databases, including VGTOF.

Response: The FBI and TSC watchlist nomination process was initially created to address a concern that watchlist nominations were not being processed in an expedient manner. Both the FBI and TSC conduct 24/7 operations that include near real-time submissions to the watchlisting process on weekend days and after normal business hours. The NCTC personnel assigned to the watchlisting process now work a 16 hour shift Monday through Friday. With the objective in-mind to ensure that all watchlisting nominations are processed timely. The FBI will continue to work to revise the current process recognizing watchlisting must take place when NCTC is not available.

Recommendation # 7:

Correct the records identified by the OIG containing incorrect watchlist designations, handling code errors, and inaccurate and inconsistent information.

Response: The TSC agrees this recommendation and has taken steps to correct the records under its purview.

Recommendation # 8:

Coordinate with NCTC and the FBI to implement an agreement that establishes the areas of responsibility and the timeframes for data quality assurance matters.

Response: The TSC accepts the recommendation to implement an agreement with both NCTC and the FBI’s National Threat Center Section to establish areas of responsibility and timeframes for data quality assurance matters.

Recommendation # 9:

Develop a comprehensive standard operating procedure that describes the TSC’s three-pronged quality assurance strategy and details the methodology to be used in performing quality assurance reviews.

Response: The TSC accepts this recommendation to document a comprehensive SOP which describes it quality assurance strategy and methodology.

Recommendation # 10:

Develop a process to perform regular spot-checks of NDIU analysts’ work to identify any weaknesses and need for additional training.

Response: The TSC accepts this recommendation to document and perform a standardized methodology for NDIU spot-checks that will identify areas for targeted training, replacing its previously used undocumented process.

Recommendation # 11:

Develop an improved and user-friendly process for tracking classified correspondence related to quality assurance matters.

Response: The TSC agrees with this recommendation and has already implemented a solution. TSC will utilize the FBI's Automated Case Support (ACS) system to track all quality assurance classified correspondence. All classified correspondence, to include e-mails and electronic communications (EC), will be uploaded to a control file within ACS which will house such communications.

Recommendation # 12:

Develop a tickler system or electronic dashboard for all pending quality assurance matters.

Response: The TSC accepts this recommendation and has begun efforts to develop same.

Recommendation # 13:

Develop a comprehensive plan, including benchmarks or milestones, to complete the record-by-record review of the TSDB.

Response: TSC will develop a comprehensive plan that will ensure each record in the TSDB has undergone a quality assurance review in addition to those high priority projects currently underway.

Recommendation # 14:

Coordinate with other partner agencies to establish a formal process for relevant encounter information to be captured by frontline screening agents and returned to the TSC to update watchlist records.

Response: The TSC accepts this recommendation to establish a formal process to update watchlist records with encounter information and notes it has used an undocumented process to accomplish this recommendation since its inception.

Recommendation # 15:

Organize a working group comprised of representatives from agencies involved in the terrorist watchlist redress process to develop timeliness measures for each phase in the redress process.

Response: TSC accepts this recommendation; the implementation of which is underway and pending signatures by all parties.

Recommendation # 16:

Develop goals and measures for its strategic plan to reduce the incidence and impact of misidentifications.

Response: TSC accepts this recommendation and is developing appropriate goals and performance measures as part of the strategic plan.

Recommendation # 17:

Develop procedures to proactively review terrorist watchlist identities that are frequently the subject of watchlist encounters, no matter if the encounter was positive, negative, or inconclusive.

Response: TSC accepts this recommendation. TSC is currently developing the framework for a new program that will proactively review watchlist records related to frequently encountered individuals.

Recommendation # 18:

Develop and implement timeliness measures to ensure that the FBI responds in a timely manner to redress inquiries from complainants subject to terrorist watchlist-related encounters involving the NCIC database, including the complainant identified by the OIG whose complaint has been pending since February 2007.

Response: The FBI accepts this recommendation and has instituted new policy and process. The February 2007 complainant involves a unique and very sensitive matter which has been resolved.

The FBI, the TSC and our strategic partners will continue to pursue efforts to improve the terrorist watchlisting process.


Willie T. Hulon
Executive Assistant Director
National Security Branch

« Previous Table of Contents Next »