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2008 FBI Audit Flagged Failure to Place Terror Suspects on Watchlist

While the State Department is fending off questions about why it didn’t revoke Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s visa and points fingers at the National Counterterrorism Center, it’s worth noting that the FBI last year was told, following an in-depth audit by its inspector general, that it had a big problem with failing to place terror suspects on the NCTC’s terror watchlists.

As Spencer has pointed out, the State Department says it passed along the warning about Abdulmutallab from his father to the rest of the government through an interagency process. That does not appear to have alerted the FBI, which itself seems odd. But even if it had, there’s no guarantee that would have landed Abdulmutallab on the terrorism watchlist — also called the “no-fly list.”

As the 2008 FBI audit released last May explained, the FBI’s practices for nominating people to the terror watchlist were a mess. Although “FBI policy allows for the nomination of known or suspected international terrorists for whom the FBI does not have a terrorism investigation,” the controls over those nominations were “weak or nonexistent,” the report concluded. The report further found that in 15 percent of cases, terror suspects who should have been nominated for the terror watchlist were not — including one suspect who was under investigation for four years.

When Congress takes up the matter next month, it should consider why the FBI wasn’t informed about a Nigerian Muslim flying to the United States after his own father warned he was an Islamic extremist presenting a safety risk — and whether the FBI and the rest of the government has cleaned up its own procedures enough to flag a suspect like this in the future.

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