Tamerlan Tsarnaev Placed in Database Perceived as Weak, Even by DHS

As the blame game starts on the Boston Marathon bombing, someone (maybe a blabby Senator?) made it public that the CIA asked to have Tamerlan Tsarnaev added to the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) database last year.

The CIA asked the main U.S. counterterrorism agency to add the name of one of the suspected Boston Marathon bombers to a watch list more than a year before the attack, according to U.S. officials.

The agency took the step after Russian authorities contacted officials there in the fall of 2011 and raised concerns that Tamerlan Tsarnaev — who was killed last week in a confrontation with police — was seen as an increasingly radical Islamist and could be planning to travel overseas. The CIA requested that his name be put on a database maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center.

That database, the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, is a data storehouse that feeds a series of government watch lists, including the FBI’s main Terrorist Screening Database and the Transportation Security Administration’s “no-fly” list.

Officials said Tsarnaev’s name was added to the database but it’s unclear which agency added it.

We got a look at the TIDE database last year when Tom Coburn reviewed whether fusion centers do useful work. Here’s what that report said about TIDE:

While reporting information on an individual who is listed in the TIDE database sounds significant, the Subcommittee found that DHS officials tended to be skeptical about the value of such reporting, because of concerns about the quality of data contained in TIDE.156

156 Although NCTC describes its TIDE database as holding information on the identities of known and suspected terrorists, DHS officials – who interacted with TIDE data on a daily basis, as they reviewed reporting not only from state and local law enforcement encounters but from encounters by DHS components – said they found otherwise. “Not everything in TIDE is KST,” DHS privacy official Ken Hunt told the Subcommittee, using a shorthand term for “known or suspected terrorist.”

Would you buy a Ford?” one DHS Senior Reports Officer asked the Subcommittee staff during an interview, when he was asked how serious it was for someone to be a match to a TIDE record. “Ford Motor Company has a TIDE record.”

[snip]

Ole Broughton headed Intelligence Oversight at I&A from September 2007 to January 2012. In an interview with the Subcommittee, Mr. Broughton expressed the concern DHS intelligence officials felt working with TIDE data. In one instance, Mr. Broughton recalled he “saw an individual’s two-year-old son [identified] in an [Homeland Intelligence Report]. He had a TIDE record.” Mr. Broughton believed part of the problem was that intelligence officials had routinely put information on “associates” of known or suspected terrorists into TIDE, without determining that that person would qualify as a known or suspected terrorist. “We had a lot of discussion regarding ‘associates’ in TIDE,” Mr. Broughton said.

[my emphasis]

This is not to say that Tamerlan shouldn’t be in TIDE.

Rather, it says there’s so much other crap in TIDE, that it isn’t perceived as very useful — at least not by the people at DHS the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations interviewed.

This is the problem with overcollection of data: it adds a bunch more hay to the haystack for the time you want to start looking for a needle.

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14 Responses to Tamerlan Tsarnaev Placed in Database Perceived as Weak, Even by DHS

Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel Does anyone know where this racially integrated 1951 school was? Did entire south refuse to Duck & Cover bc of it? https://t.co/Ay5GV8Aq6N
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emptywheel @smsaideman "Showed"? You still don't? How in god's name do they respond?
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emptywheel Duck and Cover: How the Greatest Generation™ trained their kids to withstand danger. https://t.co/eV4yIcRQBA
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emptywheel @DemFromCT Sure. But they never told the kids about the ass-goodbye-kissing.
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emptywheel @fak3r I was always a duck and cover skeptic. Tho by that point it was largely a habit leftover from finer days. When America was Great...
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emptywheel "Just hide under your desk, Joey. Neither Trump nor Russia's nuclear missiles will get you there. Promise." https://t.co/bohBHn4jj3
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emptywheel For you young 'uns, "Duck & cover" is what schools used to do to assure kids they could withstand nuclear holocaust. https://t.co/O5WqE1ib0R
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emptywheel Imagine how much more fun "The 70 GOPers playing duck & cover in response to Trump nomination" would be as headline? https://t.co/OXIkk7mXuN
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emptywheel I suppose the NYT did not consider list of which GOPers are cowering under their beds news? https://t.co/586N9dxvOw https://t.co/oXc7IOEBcP
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emptywheel @taylormattd If it were in the underlying Fox article, I might. But it's in a derivative piece, just like your multiple erroneous tweets.
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bmaz @CultofNewMedia @JasonLeopold @laRosalind Yeah, this guy is Rambo. It's either going to work or completely self destruct. Not sure which.
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bmaz @djsziff @ddayen The Govt buggered it though. And climate changed as to jury pools. Is bullshit if Govt thought that precluded other cases.
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