WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Law enforcement and homeland security personnel face an average of 55 daily encounters with "known or suspected terrorists" named on government watchlists, officials told Reuters.
The figure - which equals more than 20,000 contacts per year - underscores the growing sweep of the watchlists, which have expanded significantly since a failed Christmas Day 2009 bombing attempt of a U.S. airliner. But officials note that very few of those daily contacts lead to arrests.
Civil liberties groups question the use of watchlists, and they have been ridiculed for ensnaring innocent citizens.
U.S. officials said the encounters, which involve airport and border security personnel as well as federal and local law enforcement officers, are reported to the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), an interagency unit led by an FBI official based in a tightly guarded building in northern Virginia.
At its headquarters, the TSC operates a 24-hour command center, resembling something from a Hollywood thriller, complete with giant wall-screen projections and signs flashing "SECRET."