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FBI becomes the 'watchers-in-chief'

The number of people identified by the Obama administration as potential terrorists surged in the past two years, and the FBI now is preparing for another spike as it plans to intensify its scrutiny of foreign visitors and U.S. citizens, WND has discovered.

The federal government will hire up to 116 full-time private-contractor personnel to help amass and screen data on persons whose movements or activities are brought to the attention of the Terrorist Screening Center, an FBI-administered interagency unit.

The federal government, starting from the time Obama took office, in various ways has described returning veterans, conservatives, pro-lifers and those who support a constitutional government as potential terrorists.

And in just recent months, through the revelations of document-leaker Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency has been shown to be spying on virtually every telephone call made in America.

So TSC’s expansion comes at a time of rising skepticism about President Obama’s public pledge to reform the government’s surveillance and information-collection apparatus.

Such plans are specific to communications-intercept and data-gathering activities at the embattled NSA, still under fire in the wake of operational leaks by former contractor Snowden.

TSC lacks authority to independently collect personal data or communications. As a national repository, however, it receives personal information that local, state, federal and international entities submit about “known or suspected terrorists,” or KSTs.

The centralized Terrorist Watchlist – officially known as the Terrorist Screening Database – uses data from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

According to a project Statement of Work discovered via WND’s routine database research, the screen center is staffed by “officials from multiple agencies, including the FBI, DHS, DOS, Transportation and Security Administration, and the United States Customs and Border Protection.”

The FBI is recruiting contractors capable of working with those federal representatives, filling operations-support slots at the center’s  Vienna, Va., facility.

Contractors likewise will fill positions at an unidentified “alternate site.”

Analysts and other personnel hired for this endeavor will assess the validity of data submitted or stored on people “associated with terrorism or terrorist activity,” federal documents show.

Part of the screening process includes removing persons from the list.

Indeed, the center “regularly conducts comprehensive and case-specific” data reviews, an FBI Safeguarding Civil Liberties web page states. Such reviews help ensure terrorist identity data is “thorough, accurate, and current,” and meets the federal government’s strict criteria for watch listing, it says.

The center also ensures that “complaints and misidentifications are addressed and any errors are corrected.”

The center’s Operations Branch, which manages center functions around the clock, comprises eight specific work units needing contractor services.

Recent and projected escalations of “encounter” activity necessitate the services, the government says.

The Terrorist Screening Operations Center is one such unit experiencing growth in KST “encounters.”

The unit serves as the “focal point for all domestic and international encounters” with potential terrorists. It provides 24-hour availability to partner screening-agencies, according to the contracting document.

“TSOC currently averages approximately 275 requests for service per day, which represents a 27 percent increase over FY2012 and a 70 percent increase over FY2011 levels,” documents show.

“TSOC anticipates encounter volume will continue to increase at a steady pace.”

Unit personnel assist other agencies via the TSDB, the U.S. government’s “sole consolidated watchlist for information used in terrorism screening.”

Following an operations center “positive encounter” with a person suspected of terrorist affiliation, the Terrorist Screening Operations Unit gets involved.

“When appropriate, TSOU creates and transfers operational assessments to FBI Field Offices for action,” the document says.

TSOU contributes to the database’s accuracy “by conducting research in several databases when a positive encounter is received.”

The Domestic Engagement unit is tasked with alerting the U.S. Intelligence Community and the U.S Law Enforcement Community to the availability of watch-list services.

Part of DE’s mission is to help intelligence and police agencies “utilize watchlist data and manage encounters with watchlisted persons.”

The Intelligence Unit “serves as the information sharing focal point for the TSC.”

IU analyzes and disseminates intelligence data that the Center collects. It assists both domestic and “foreign partners.”

Annually the unit disseminates “over 1,500 raw and finished intelligence products per year to support executive decision making and the USIC/LEC.”

The Terrorist Review & Examination Unit, or TREX, is tasked with “all watchlisting related matters for the FBI.” TREX also is responsible for the timely sharing of information on “FBI international and domestic terrorism investigations” among watch-listing partner agencies.

The Nominations and Data Integrity Unit, or NDIU, which adds and deletes data, averages about 8,700 record reviews weekly, with each initial review taking about seven minutes.

“NDIU anticipates an annual increase in workload volume averaging 10-15 percent per year,” according to the document.

The unit makes “thorough, accurate, and current additions, modifications, and deletions” to the TSDB.

It accomplishes the tasks through what it calls “biographical information validation,” “derogatory information assessment” and “biometric information identification linkage verification.” The document did not define the terms.

Another unit known as the Visa Review and International Liaison screens and identifies visa applicants against the watchlist. The office daily averages 400 service requests, “with an annual workload increase of 10 percent anticipated.”

Other than acknowledging its location “within the continental United States but outside the Northern Virginia or any other major metropolitan area,” little is offered about the “Alternate Site,” a unit that provides center “with the ability to conduct certain mission functions at a more remote location.”

The document also makes clear that contractor employees hired for center operations are forbidden from representing themselves in the capacity of performing “Inherently Governmental Functions.”

If such employees get in situations “where it may be assumed that he or she is an FBI employee, then the contract employee shall identify himself or herself as a contractor.”

The FBI did not disclose the estimated cost of a contract award.