How bad are the feds' enemy-of-the-state databases? So bad, they can't even keep fellow terror-hunters off their blacklists, Ryan Singel reports.The Transportation Security Administration's airline screening system "tends to mistake government employees and U.S. servicemen for foreign terrorists," he writes in today's Wired News. "Newly released government documents show that even having a high-level security clearance won't keep you off the Transportation Security Administration's Kafkaesque terrorist watch list, where you'll suffer missed flights and bureaucratic nightmares."
According to logs from the TSA's call center from late 2004 -- which black out the names of individuals to protect their privacy -- the watch list has snagged...* A high-ranking government employee with a better-than-top-secret clearance who is also a U.S. Army Reserve major...* An active-duty Army officer who had served four combat tours (including one in Afghanistan) and who holds a top-secret clearance.* A retired U.S. Army officer and antiterrorism/force-protection officer with expertise on weapons of mass destruction who was snared when he was put back on active-duty status while flying on a ticket paid for by the Army.Now, I'm sure there have been improvements to the watch lists since 2004. But, asJustice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine told Congress earlier this week, database managers still "had not ensured that the information in that database is complete and accurate. For example, the OIG found instances where the consolidated database did not contain names that should have been included on the watch list and inaccurate or inconsistent information related to persons included in the database."
The OIG's June 2005 report offered 40 recommendations to the TSC [Terrorist Screening Center] to address areas such as database improvements, data accuracy and completeness, call center management, and staffing. The TSC generally agreed with the recommendations and in some cases provided evidence that it has taken action to correct the weaknesses that the audit identified.Since issuance of the audit, the TSC has initiated a record-by-record review of the terrorist screening database to ensure accuracy, completeness, and consistency of the records. TSC staff informed the OIG it is focusing first on the records deemed most important. According to the TSC, review of the entire database, which contains more than 235,000 [uh, make that 325,000] records, will take several years.UPDATE 9:57 AM: Slashdot sez, "The Guardian newspaper has a great story about how the gathering of information for 'anti-terrorist' passenger screening databases allowed a reporter and security guru Adam Laurie to lay the groundwork for stealing the identity of a business traveller by using his discarded boarding-pass stub."