WASHINGTON — A new government report obtained by NBC News says criminal fugitives and suspected terrorists could get U.S. passports because, almost four years after 9/11, the government still has not fixed problems with information sharing — problems that enabled some of the 9/11 hijackers to go undetected.
Donald Eugene Webb, one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted fugitives, is charged with murdering a police chief in 1980. Yet congressional investigators found that Webb could easily have gotten a U.S. passport and fled overseas because his name was never put on the State Department’s lookout list.
In the new report, the Government Accountability Office says it ran the names of 67 fugitives and 37 of them — more than half — were not on the State Department list.
Investigators say James Eberhart, a fugitive accused of defrauding investors of more than $11 million, had actually been issued a passport.
"The American people have a right to be angry about this," says Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. "At this stage we should not still be having these problems. They are inexcusable."
The report also found that in addition to not being provided the names of fugitives, the State Department also isn’t getting the names of U.S. citizens suspected of ties to terrorists — names on the terror watch list.
Investigators warn that the continued failure to share information and consolidate lists makes it “more difficult to protect U.S. citizens from terrorists, criminals and others who would harm the U.S.”
"It is very troubling, but not surprising," says 9/11 commission member John Lehman.
Lehman also says it reflects a wider problem: Failure to learn the lessons of 9/11.
"This is a good insight into what has not been changed across the board," he says.
A State Department official acknowledges lapses but says fixes take time.
"We are exponentially better than we were on that dreadful September morning," says Maura Harty, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs.
The State Department says an agreement with the FBI to share information should be signed any day.
Lisa Myers is NBC’s senior investigative correspondent.