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INFO531 – Case Study#1

Please read and review the Chapter 6 Case Study:

Trouble with the Terrorist Watch List Database (page 240 of your text)

After your review, please answer the following questions and formulate them into an APA formatted paper:

If you are using the 13th edition of the book, see the document attached to this assignment, for the narrative of the case study.

(1)    What concepts in this chapter are illustrated in this case?
(2)    Why was the consolidated terror watch list created? What are the benefits of the list?
(3)    Describe some of the weaknesses of the watch list. What management, organization, and technology factors are responsible for these weaknesses?
(4)    How effective is the system of watch lists described in this case study? Explain your answer.
(5)    If you were responsible for the management of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), what steps would you take to correct some of these weaknesses?
(6)    Do you believe that the terror watch list represents a significant threat to individuals’ privacy or Constitutional rights? Why or why not?
(7)    Describe your understanding of the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP), and provide at least two pros and cons to this initiative.
(8)    Describe the current status of “Secure Flight.” Has TSA been able to overcome the privacy concerns?


(a)    Write in APA format
(b)    Each item will have a proper APA heading
(c)    Response to each of the 1-8 items above must be at least 150 words
(d)    The paper must have at least five (5) reputable sources with proper citations from these sources
(e)    Please submit by the due date 

This assignment will be processed by Turnitin automatically, upon submission (verify your similarity score in %).

INFO531, APUS/Dr. Kraimeche

Source: Laundon & Laundon, MIS, 12th edition, page 240

The Terror Watch List Database’s Troubles Continue


In the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks, the FBI’s

Terrorist Screening Center, or TSC, was

established to consolidate information about

suspected terrorists from multiple government

agencies into a single list to enhance inter-agency

communication. A database of suspected terrorists

known as the terrorist watch list was created.

Multiple U.S. government agencies had been

maintaining separate lists and these agencies lacked

a consistent process to share relevant information.

Records in the TSC database contain sensitive but

unclassified information on terrorist identities, such

as name and date of birth, that can be shared with

other screening agencies. Classified information

about the people in the watch list is maintained in

other law enforcement and intelligence agency data-

bases. Records for the watchlist database are pro-

vided by two sources: The National Counterterrorism

Center (NCTC) managed by the Office of the

Director of National Intelligence provides identifying

information on individuals with ties to international

terrorism. The FBI provides identifying information

on individuals with ties to purely domestic terrorism.

These agencies collect and maintain terrorist

information and nominate individuals for inclusion

in the TSC’s consolidated watch list. They are

required to follow strict procedures established by

the head of the agency concerned and approved by

the U.S. Attorney General. TSC staff must review

each record submitted before it is added to the

database. An individual will remain on the watch list

until the respective department or agency that

nominated that person to the list determines that the

person should be removed from the list and deleted

from the database

The TSC watch list database is updated daily with

new nominations, modifications to existing records,

and deletions. Since its creation, the list has

ballooned to 400,000 people, recorded as 1.1 million

names and aliases, and is continuing to grow at a rate

of 200,000 records each year. Information on the list

is distributed to a wide range of government agency

systems for use in efforts to deter or detect the

movements of known or suspected terrorists.

Recipient agencies include the FBI, CIA, National

Security Agency (NSA), Transportation Security

Administration (TSA), Department of Homeland

Security, State Department, Customs and Border.

Protection, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service, and

the White House. Airlines use data supplied by the

TSA system in their NoFly and Selectee lists for

prescreening passengers, while the U.S. Customs and

Border Protection system uses the watchlist data to

help screen travelers entering the United States. The

State Department system screens applicants for visas

to enter the United States and U.S. residents applying

for passports, while state and local law enforcement

agencies use the FBI system to help with arrests,

detentions, and other criminal justice activities. Each

of these agencies receives the subset of data in the

watch list that pertains to its specific mission.

When an individual makes an airline reservation,

arrives at a U.S. port of entry, applies for a U.S. visa,

or is stopped by state or local police within the

United States, the frontline screening agency or

airline conducts a name-based search of the individ-

ual against the records from the terrorist watch list

database. When the computerized name-matching

system generates a “hit” (a potential name match)

against a watch list record, the airline or agency will

review each potential match. Matches that are

clearly positive or exact matches that are inconclu-

sive (uncertain or difficult to verify) are referred to

the applicable screening agency’s intelligence or

operations center and to the TSC for closer examina-

tion. In turn, TSC checks its databases and other

sources, including classified databases maintained by

the NCTC and FBI to confirm whether the individual

is a positive, negative, or inconclusive match to the

watch list record. TSC creates a daily report summa-

rizing all positive matches to the watch list and

distributes them to numerous federal agencies.

The process of consolidating information from

disparate agencies has been a slow and painstaking

one, requiring the integration of at least 12 different

databases. Two years after the process of integration

took place, 10 of the 12 databases had been

processed. The remaining two databases (the U.S.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Automatic

Biometric Identification System and the FBI’s

Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification

System) are both fingerprint databases. There is still

more work to be done to optimize the list’s useful-


Reports from both the Government Accountability

Office and the Office of the Inspector General assert

that the list contains inaccuracies and that govern-

ment departmental policies for nomination and

removal from the lists are not uniform. There has also

been public outcry resulting from the size of the list

and well-publicized incidents of obvious non-terrorists

finding that they are included on the list.

Information about the process for inclusion on the

list must necessarily be carefully protected if the list

is to be effective against terrorists. The specific

criteria for inclusion are not public knowledge. We

do know, however, that government agencies popu-

late their watch lists by performing wide sweeps of

information gathered on travelers, using many

misspellings and alternate variations of the names of

suspected terrorists. This often leads to the inclusion

of people who do not belong on watch lists, known as

“false positives.” It also results in some people being

listed multiple times under different spellings of

their names.

While these selection criteria may be effective for

tracking as many potential terrorists as possible, they

also lead to many more erroneous entries on the list

than if the process required more finely tuned infor-

mation to add new entries. Notable examples of ‘false

positives’ include Michael Hicks, an 8-year-old New

Jersey Cub Scout who is continually stopped at the

airport for additional screening and the late senator

Ted Kennedy, who had been repeatedly delayed in

the past because his name resembles an alias once

used by a suspected terrorist. Like Kennedy, Hicks

may have been added because his name is the same

or similar to a different suspected terrorist.

These incidents call attention to the quality and

accuracy of the data in the TSC consolidated

terrorist watch list. In June 2005, a report by the

Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector

General found inconsistent record counts, duplicate

records, and records that lacked data fields or had

unclear sources for their data. Although TSC

subsequently enhanced its efforts to identify and

correct incomplete or inaccurate watch list records,

the Inspector General noted in September 2007 that

TSC management of the watch list still showed some


Given the option between a list that tracks every

potential terrorist at the cost of unnecessarily track-

ing some innocents, and a list that fails to track

many terrorists in an effort to avoid tracking inno-

cents, many would choose the list that tracked every

terrorist despite the drawbacks. But to make matters

worse for those already inconvenienced by wrongful

inclusion on the list, there is currently no simple and quick redress process for innocents that hope to

remove themselves from it.

The number of requests for removal from the

watch list continues to mount, with over 24,000

requests recorded (about 2,000 each month) and only

54 percent of them resolved. The average time to

process a request in 2008 was 40 days, which was not

(and still is not) fast enough to keep pace with the

number of requests for removal coming in. As a

result, law-abiding travelers that inexplicably find

themselves on the watch list are left with no easy

way to remove themselves from it.

In February 2007, the Department of Homeland

Security instituted its Traveler Redress Inquiry

Program (TRIP) to help people that have been

erroneously added to terrorist watch lists remove

themselves and avoid extra screening and question-

ing. John Anderson’s mother claimed that despite

her best efforts, she was unable to remove her son

from the watch lists. Senator Kennedy reportedly

was only able to remove himself from the list by

personally bringing up the matter to Tom Ridge, then

the Director of the Department of Homeland


Security officials say that mistakes such as the one

that led to Anderson and Kennedy’s inclusion on

no-fly and consolidated watch lists occur due to the

matching of imperfect data in airline reservation

systems with imperfect data on the watch lists. Many

airlines don’t include gender, middle name, or date

of birth in their reservations records, which increases

the likelihood of false matches.

One way to improve screening and help reduce

the number of people erroneously marked for

additional investigation would be to use a more

sophisticated system involving more personal data

about individuals on the list. The TSA is developing

just such a system, called “Secure Flight,” but it has

been continually delayed due to privacy concerns

regarding the sensitivity and safety of the data it

would collect. Other similar surveillance programs

and watch lists, such as the NSA’s attempts to gather

information about suspected terrorists, have drawn

criticism for potential privacy violations.

Additionally, the watch list has drawn criticism

because of its potential to promote racial profiling

and discrimination. Some allege that they were

included by virtue of their race and ethnic descent,

such as David Fathi, an attorney for the ACLU of

Iranian descent, and Asif Iqbal, a U.S. citizen of

Pakistani decent with the same name as a

Guantanamo detainee. Outspoken critics of U.S.

foreign policy, such as some elected officials and

university professors, have also found themselves on

the list.

A report released in May 2009 by Department of

Justice Inspector General Glenn A. Fine found that

the FBI had incorrectly kept nearly 24,000 people on

its own watch list that supplies data to the terrorist

watch list on the basis of outdated or irrelevant infor-

mation. Examining nearly 69,000 referrals to the FBI

list, the report found that 35 percent of those people

remained on the list despite inadequate justification.

Even more worrisome, the list did not contain the

names of people who should have been listed

because of their terrorist ties.

FBI officials claim that the bureau has made

improvements, including better training, faster

processing of referrals, and requiring field office

supervisors to review watch-list nominations for

accuracy and completeness. But this watch list and

the others remain imperfect tools. In early 2008, it

was revealed that 20 known terrorists were not cor-

rectly listed on the consolidated watch list. (Whether

these individuals were able to enter the U.S. as a

result is unclear.)

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who

unsuccessfully tried to detonate plastic explosives on

the Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, had not made it onto

the no-fly list. Although Abdulmutallab’s father had

reported concern over his son’s radicalization to the

U.S. State Department, the Department did not

revoke Adbulmutallab’s visa because his name was

misspelled in the visa database, so he was allowed to

enter the United States. Faisal Shahzad, the Times

Square car bomber, was apprehended on May 3,

2010, only moments before his Emirates airline flight

to Dubai and Pakistan was about to take off. The

airline had failed to check a last-minute update to the

no-fly list that had added Shahzad’s name.

Sources: Scott Shane, “Lapses Allowed Suspect to Board Plane,”

The New York Times, May 4, 2010; Mike McIntire, “Ensnared by

Error on Growing U.S. Watch List,” The New York Times, April 6,

2010; Eric Lipton, Eric Schmitt, and Mark Mazzetti, “Review of Jet

Bomb Plot Shows More Missed Clues,” The New York Times,

January 18, 2010; Lizette Alvarez, “Meet Mikey, 8: U.S. Has Him

on Watch List,” The New York Times, January 14, 2010; Eric

Lichtblau, “Justice Dept. Finds Flaws in F.B.I. Terror List,” The New

York Times, May 7, 2009; Bob Egelko, “Watch-list Name Confusion

Causes Hardship,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 20, 2008;

“Reports Cite Lack of Uniform Policy for Terrorist Watch List,” The

Washington Post, March 18, 2008; Siobhan Gorman, “NSA’s

Domestic Spying Grows as Agency Sweeps Up Data,” The Wall

Street Journal, March 10, 2008; Ellen Nakashima, and Scott

McCartney, “When Your Name is Mud at the Airport,” The Wall

Street Journal, January 29, 2008.242 Part Two Information Technology Infrastructure


1. What concepts in this chapter are illustrated in

this case?

2. Why was the consolidated terror watch list

created? What are the benefits of the list?

3. Describe some of the weaknesses of the watch

list. What management, organization, and

technology factors are responsible for these

weaknesses? 4. How effective is the system of watch lists

described in this case study? Explain your answer.

5. If you were responsible for the management of

the TSC watch list database, what steps would you

take to correct some of these weaknesses?

6. Do you believe that the terror watch list

represents a significant threat to individuals’

privacy or Constitutional rights? Why or why not?