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May 16, 2013

DOJ Report: Known Terrorists Not Put on Watch Lists

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, released the below statement in response to a Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (DOJ OIG) audit on how known or suspected terrorists are handled after placed in the federal Witness Security Program (WITSEC). The report, entitled "Interim Report on the Department of Justice's Handling of Known or Suspected Terrorists Admitted into the Federal Witness Security Program", found national security vulnerabilities with the program.

The IG made 16 recommendations for the program regarding how it identifies, admits, monitors, and terminates participants in the program who are known or suspected terrorists. Of those 16 recommendations, 15 have been implemented. The IG found that an unknown number of known, trained terrorists were placed in the program without the knowledge of national security stakeholders. For example, the new identities of individuals in the program were not given to the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) – which manages a consolidated terrorist watchlist. The 'no fly' list is a part of the TSC. Therefore individuals in the program were allowed to fly and national security officials charged with tracking terrorists could not monitor their movements and actions. Often, those in the program flew with the approval of program officials. The new identities were eventually given to the TSC, and the individuals were deemed not to be national security threat.

Additionally, the IG found that the FBI was not notified of suspicious activity by WITSEC participants. However, the Department has taken corrective action and all information is currently shared with the TSC and the FBI.

"The Inspector General's audit of the federal Witness Security Program is an alarming example of the information sharing vulnerabilities that still remain over a decade after September 11th. The audit revealed that the FBI and Terrorist Screening Center did not know about, and were not involved in monitoring, individuals in the program – essentially leaving them to freely move around the country with new identities the government provided. I am pleased that the Deputy Attorney General has implemented corrective action and am glad the Department of Justice is seriously addressing these information-sharing gaps."

Link to Report

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Media Contact: Adam Comis at (202) 225-9978