Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

October 5, 2006

60 Minutes cross-checks the no-fly list

Filed under: Aviation Security — by Christian Beckner on October 5, 2006

The website for 60 Minutes indicates that they plan to run a piece this Sunday looking at the US government’s no-fly list, and pointing out deficiencies in it. From the preview piece on the show’s website:

60 Minutes, in collaboration with the National Security News Service, has obtained the secret list used to screen airline passengers for terrorists and discovered it includes names of people not likely to cause terror, including the president of Bolivia, people who are dead and names so common, they are shared by thousands of innocent fliers.

Steve Kroft’s investigation, in which an ex-FBI agent who worked on its al Qaeda task force says the list of 44,000 names is ineffective, will be broadcast this Sunday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

The former FBI agent, Jack Cloonan, knew the list that was hastily assembled after 9/11, would be bungled. “When we heard the name list or no-fly list … the eyes rolled back in my head, because we knew what was going to happen,” he says. “They basically did a massive data dump and said, ‘Okay, anybody that’s got a nexus to terrorism, let’s make sure they get on the list,'” he tells Kroft.

The “data dump” of names from the files of several government agencies, including the CIA, fed into the computer compiling the list contained many unlikely terrorists. These include Saddam Hussein, who is under arrest, Nabih Berri, Lebanon’s parliamentary speaker, and Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia. It also includes the names of 14 of the 19 dead 9/11 hijackers.

The most interesting part of the story is that certain highly-sensitive names – e.g. members of al-Qaeda known to intelligence agencies but not publicy known – are deliberately left off the list, for fear that it could fall into the wrong hands:

But the names of some of the most dangerous living terrorists or suspects are kept off the list.

The 11 British suspects recently charged with plotting to blow up airliners with liquid explosives were not on it, despite the fact they were under surveillance for more than a year.

The name of David Belfield who now goes by Dawud Sallahuddin, is not on the list, even though he assassinated someone in Washington, D.C., for former Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini. This is because the accuracy of the list meant to uphold security takes a back seat to overarching security needs: it could get into the wrong hands. “The government doesn’t want that information outside the government,” says Cathy Berrick, director of Homeland Security investigations for the General Accounting Office.

This should be an interesting segment on Sunday. It’s also supposed to contain content from the forthcoming book “Unsafe at Any Altitude,” as noted on the book’s website.

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2 Comments »

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Book Review: ‘Unsafe at Any Altitude’

October 9, 2006 @ 1:34 am

[…] As I noted last week, a segment on 60 Minutes on Sunday night looked at the issue of the government’s no-fly list, based upon an investigation that studied a copy of the list. The investigators found numerous flaws with it, most notably the fact that 14 of the 19 9/11 hijackers (presumably dead) were still on the list, and people with common names such as “Robert Johnson” are repeatedly flagged when they fly. The transcript of the segment is available here. […]

Comment by 49ers Jersey

August 15, 2011 @ 8:32 pm

But the names of some of the most dangerous living terrorists or suspects are kept off the list.

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