The Government Accountability Office released a report today entitled “Terrorist Watch List Screening: Efforts to Help Reduce Adverse Effects on the Public.” It takes a close look at the existing watch list system, and the activities that have been taken to improve people’s ability to address the fact that they are incorrectly placed or identified on government watch lists. It contains a useful chart on Page 11 that shows the existing watchlist check process. And it notes current efforts underway to develop a government-wide redress process:
The Terrorist Screening Center, from its unique position as administrator of the consolidated terrorist watch list, has noted significant differences among agencies in providing watch-list-related redress. For instance, whereas the Transportation Security Administration has designated an official accountable specifically for redress, U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not and also has not followed consistent procedures in referring appropriate redress queries to the Terrorist Screening Center. Thus, at the Terrorist Screening Centerâ€™s request, the Department of Justice is leading an effort to develop an interagency memorandum of understanding to ensure that opportunities for redress are formally documented and that agency responsibilities are clear, with designated officials specifically accountable for supporting the continued success of watch-list-related redress. This effort, according to the Terrorist Screening Center, has been ongoing since fall 2005, and a final draft of the memorandum of understanding is expected to be ready for interagency clearances by fall 2006. The Department of Justice and the Terrorist Screening Center have acknowledged that, upon finalization of an interagency agreement that documents the redress opportunities and designates agenciesâ€™ responsibilities, it is important that appropriately updated information on redress and points of contact be made available to the public, including updates of Web-based guidance.
This is an issue that Sec. Chertoff had promised progress on by the end of 2006, in his “Secure Borders and Open Doors” speech in January, noting then that DHS’s goal “is to establish a government-wide traveler screening redress process before the end of this year to enable travelers who have complaints or have legitimate issues to resolve those questions with one-stop shopping.” Hopefully sufficient progress is being made on this front. In the absence of an effective redress system, the public’s long-term acceptance of watchlisting efforts is likely to recede.