Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Reader Comment – 12-28-09 – TSDB and MTSA
A long time reader (and the blogger behind the Maritime Security/MTSA News blog) Laurie Thomas posted a comment about yesterday’s blog of security screening lists. She wrote: On a similar topic, the background checks that are run during the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) enrollment process include a check against terrorist watch lists. This almost-tragedy has made some of us wonder about the accuracy of those watch list checks, and also made us wonder who has been given credentials when the most cursory study of the paperwork trail would reveal that person as a potential enemy of the United States. As I understand things, the TWIC background check uses the TSDB (along with various criminal DB) to check for potential terrorist connections. Now since the Nigerian Bomber did not have a Green Card, just a multiple-entry visa, he would not have been able to get a TWIC. Even so, Laurie’s point is still relevant; a citizen or green card holder with a similar entry on TIDE would not have failed the background check for obtaining a TWIC. Of course the problem remains, TIDE listing is based on unsubstantiated and unverified information. There are not enough FBI/CIA/NSA/XXX investigators around the world to run down the information on the 500,000 names on TIDE. Undoubtedly, most of these people pose absolutely no threat to the United States or its citizens. Is it fair to brand these harmless people as potential terrorists, to deny them jobs, or access to the US based on this unvetted information? Many people will answer “Yes”; maintaining that that is the price we must pay to protect our country. But remember, all that it takes to make the TIDE list is a public allegation of a terror connection. If I were to write in this blog that Joe Blow of 000 Main Street, Anytown, USA is making bombs in a shack in the woods outside of town and is threatening to blow up a Post Office because they keep delivering threatening letters from creditors, then Joe Blow would end up on TIDE. Of course, the only thing that I know about Joe Blow is that he has applied for the same job at a high-risk chemical plant that I have applied for; it might give me an edge on that job if Joe Blow’s name turns up on a terrorist screening check. Oh yes, one last word. The next professional (not botched amateur) terrorist attack on US soil will be conducted by someone not on the TSDB or TIDE. What good will the lists have done then?