Some State and Local Police Fail to Report Background Checks That Match Terrorist Suspects

State and local police officers fail to notify federal authorities about encounters with possible terrorism suspects up to 10 times a day, a senior FBI official said.

The rate of failure represents missed opportunities to verify possible matches to suspects on the government’s terrorist watch list or to remove individuals from the list whose names had been added by mistake, according to Leonard Boyle, director of the bureau’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC).

Police are asked to contact the center when routine computerized background checks on individuals — who may have violated traffic rules or been involved in a domestic disturbance — trigger electronic alerts from the TSC.

The alerts indicate possible matches to individuals on the government’s watch list of an estimated 400,000 people. Police notifications to the center result in the identification of 40 to 50 verified suspects each day.

Regular audits of the system reveal that officers do not respond to the alerts eight to 10 times daily. Federal authorities are not automatically contacted.

A study of the compliance rate suggests that some officers intentionally do not contact federal authorities and others may not respond because of workload pressures and the time required to contact TSC.

FBI Terrorist Screening Center

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