Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How the terrorist watch list decreases border security

The Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General has issued a report on U.S. Customs and Border Patrol activities at U.S. ports of entry that "indicates a significant decrease over the past few years in the interception of narcotics and the identification of fraudulent immigration documents, especially at airports." The problem is that when people are stopped whose names resemble those of individuals on the terrorist watch list, they have limited discretion about how to proceed, which causes them to spend a large amount of time dealing with each such case. Spending time on those cases detracts from their ability to do anything else, and the accumulated information collected in such incidents doesn't appear to be put to effective use:
When a watchlisted or targeted individual is encountered at a POE, CBP generates several reports summarizing the incident. Each of these reports provides a different level of detail, and is distributed to a different readership. It is unclear, however, how details of the encounter and the information obtained from the suspected terrorist are disseminated for analysis. This inconsistent reporting is preventing DHS from developing independent intelligence assessments and may be preventing important information from inclusion in national strategic intelligence analyses.
The report advises giving more discretion to supervisors at ports of entry, giving security clearances to port of entry counterterrorism personnel, establishing consistent reporting standards, and reviewing port of entry staffing models. It also advises that port of entry personnel collect biometric data from persons entering the country "who would not normally provide this information when entering the United States."

More at Bruce Schneier's blog.

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