New York City police were led to a possible Al Qaeda associate last month after a search of a federal terror database during a routine traffic search, National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte (search) said Tuesday.
In a speech at the annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Negroponte offered the incident as an example of increasing cooperation between local law enforcement and federal agencies.
Negroponte spoke of success he said local law enforcement officials have had in working with the FBI-run Terrorist Screening Center (search), the government's new central database for terror suspects.
According to Negroponte, the New York City Police Department (search) called the center last month because a routine search on a parking violation alerted officers that the individual might be a terrorist suspect.
"Sure enough, TSC database searches identified the subject as an alleged alien smuggler possibly associated with Al Qaeda," Negroponte said. "Identifying terrorists who wish to do us harm, intercepting them when necessary and preventing attacks before they occur is a tall order, but it is the right order."
Negroponte said it was important for agencies from around the world to work together and share information. However, there are still issues that need to be addressed, including privacy and civil liberties.
The screening center was created in September 2003 by a presidential directive. It combines about a dozen databases from nine agencies that any government official — from a Customs agent at an airport to a state trooper watching for speeders — can consult to check the name of someone who has been screened or stopped.
Earlier this year, Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said in an audit that the database was missing some names that should be in it and had inaccurate information about others.
Donna Bucella, the center's director, has said the problems have been corrected.