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FBI'S `WATCH LIST' MUTATES

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  • ummyakoub
    FBI S POST-SEPT. 11 `WATCH LIST MUTATES, ACQUIRES LIFE OF ITS OWN Bureau Gave It to Companies; Now, Out-of-Date Versions Dog Some People Named --- Still
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 25, 2002
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      FBI'S POST-SEPT. 11 `WATCH LIST' MUTATES, ACQUIRES LIFE OF ITS OWN
      Bureau Gave It to Companies; Now, Out-of-Date Versions Dog Some
      People Named --- Still Citing the Atta Brothers
      Ann Davis, Wall Street Journal, 11/19/02
      http://online.wsj.com/public/us

      LAS VEGAS -- When a patron at the New York-New York casino plugged
      his frequent-player card into a slot machine one day this summer,
      something strange happened: An alert warned the casino's
      surveillance officials that an associate of a suspected terrorist
      might be on the grounds.

      How did a casino's computer make such a connection? Shortly after
      Sept. 11, the FBI had entrusted a quickly developed watch list to
      scores of corporations around the country.

      Departing from its usual practice of closely guarding such lists,
      the FBI circulated the names of hundreds of people it wanted to
      question.

      Counterterrorism officials gave the list to car-rental companies.
      Then FBI field agents and other officials circulated it to big
      banks, travel-reservations systems, firms that collect consumer
      data, as well as casino operators such as MGM Mirage, the owner of
      New York-New York.

      Additional recipients included businesses thought vulnerable to
      terrorist intrusion, including truckers, chemical companies and
      power-plant operators. It was the largest intelligence-sharing
      experiment the bureau has ever undertaken with the private sector.

      A year later, the list has taken on a life of its own, with
      multiplying -- and error-filled -- versions being passed around like
      bootleg music. Some companies fed a version of the list into their
      own databases and now use it to screen job applicants and customers.
      A water-utilities trade association used the list "in lieu of"
      standard background checks, says the New Jersey group's executive
      director.

      The list included many people the FBI didn't suspect but just wanted
      to talk to. Yet a version on SeguRed.com, a South American security-
      oriented Web site that got a copy from a Venezuelan bank's security
      officer, is headed: "list of suspected terrorists sent by the FBI to
      financial institutions." (The site's editor says he may change the
      heading.) Meanwhile, a supermarket trade group used a version of the
      list to try to check whether terrorists were raising funds through
      known shoplifting rings. The trade group won't disclose resultsÂ…

      The watch list shared with companies -- one part of the FBI's
      massive counterterrorism database -- quickly became obsolete as the
      bureau worked its way through the names. The FBI's counterterrorism
      division quietly stopped updating the list more than a year ago. But
      it never informed most of the companies that had received a copy.
      FBI headquarters doesn't know who is still using the list because
      officials never kept track of who got it...

      Then there's the problem of getting off the list. At first the FBI
      frequently removed names of people it had cleared. But issuing
      updated lists, which the FBI once did as often as four times a day,
      didn't fix the older ones already in circulation. Three brothers in
      Texas named Atta -- long since exonerated, and no relation to the
      alleged lead hijacker -- are still trying to chase their names off
      copies of the list posted on Internet sites in at least five
      countriesÂ…


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