Terrorist Watch List

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The Terrorists Watch List, also known as, the Terrorist Screening Database, is a consolidated database used in identifying information regarding people or organizations, substantially suspected and known to take part in terrorist activity. It is a counterterrorism tool for the United States government that effectively supports the possibility of first-rate screening by agencies, to accurately identify suspected or known terrorists who attempt to get visas, enter the country, take flights, or take part in other activities.

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The database is consolidated because it consists of all the previously existing dozens of databases maintained by various government agencies, to screen people by the US government law enforcement and intelligence departments (ISE, n.d).

The need for a consolidated database arose due to the inefficient coordination and cooperation between these agencies; and, the need for a central unit where all effective information about an individual of potential interest could be readily obtained.

This was spurred by the September 11 attacks in 2001.Before then, no central unit existed that could support the 9/11 hackers relation to terrorism activities. As a result, the Terrorism Screening Center (TSC) was formed in 2003, to maintain and coordinate such a database. (FBI, 2011)

Advantages of the TSC Watch List Database

The Watch List aims at supporting government agencies in an investigation of suspected terrorists. It has several advantages in controlling terrorism, which include:

The watch list provides an effective design that helps prevent terrorist attacks by monitoring listed terrorists closely.

Watch list matching process has helped solve challenges in situations where flight passengers and potential terrorists are drawn into proving their non-existence in the watch list.

The watch list provides a convenient way to provide vital information to the government in their efforts toward obtaining terrorist information and details.

The watch list can be circulated to various government agencies to detect and prevent the movement of identified and suspected terrorists. (Studymoose, 2016)

Setbacks and Criticism of the Watch List

Most critics have found some drawbacks on the Watch List, majorly arising from its management, coordination, and technological aspects. This include:

Both critics and concerned citizens point out to the slow integration of all the government agencies databases into the Watch List system. Differences in management systems for the various agencies make it hard to unify all the information and policies into a single database.

A Department of Justice Report recently showed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had inaccurately kept an estimated 24,000 individuals on their watch list. The FBI being one of the main data sources for the TSC watch list, therefore, is able to supply inaccurate data to the Watch List. This has led to misidentifications arising from similarities in names with some terrorists.

Sometimes individuals on the watch list may change their identities making the database on the individuals obsolete.

To curb most of the setbacks and challenges of operating the watch list, the government has put up the following measures:

Keeping the watch list private and as secret as possible to help make it effective in investigations and surveillance of terrorists, and in general counterterrorism efforts.

Integrating redress and quality assurance in conducting a thorough and case-specific review of Watch List records to ensure updated and accurate records. This has enabled removal and subsequent correction of several records from the Watch List.

Integration of the database into the Secure Flight procedure by the Transport Security Administration, to enhance quick and efficient passenger screening before flights. (ISE, n.d)


Terrorists watch list by the FBI. (2011). Retrieved April 30, 2016, from https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/ten-years-after-the-fbi-since-9-11/just-the-facts-1/terrorist-screening-center

Terrorist Watch list. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2016, from https://www.ise.gov/terrorist-watchlistStudymoose, G. (2016). The Terror Watch List Database Troubles Continue. Retrieved April 30, 2016, from http://studymoose.com/the-terror-watch-list-database-troubles-continue-essay.

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