Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

October 23, 2008

A Welcome Reversal on the Watchlist

Filed under: Aviation Security,Intelligence and Info-Sharing,Privacy and Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on October 23, 2008

Earlier this year DHS and the airlines went head-to-head over who should be responsible for checking passengers’ names against the federal no-fly list. DHS said they would maintain a list of names of people that would either be subject to additional screening (“selectee”) or not be permitted to fly (“no-fly”). It did not take long for the air lines to object, claiming an undue burden on their operations, and DHS fretted over inconsistent application of the list by the private air carriers. Eventually, all agreed the situation wasn’t working and today Secretary Chertoff issued a new “rule” reversing the process.

Under the new rule, part of Secure Flight, airlines will submit encrypted flight reservation information to TSA. TSA will compare that data with a constantly maintained/updated no-fly list and selectee list. Then TSA will send the results back to the airline “if there’s a problem,” said Chertoff during a press event today. It is unclear if the airlines only hear back from TSA in the event of a “hit” on the list. It may be the case that if TSA doesn’t comment, then the air lines are clear to board the passenger. Silence equals acceptance?

The private sector fell short in carrying out baggage screening, and so we gave it back to TSA. The private sector failed to meet expectations on the no-fly lists, and so it goes back to TSA. This would seem like a clear cut victory for the airlines. They offload all the risk to TSA at the screening lanes and with checking the no-fly lists.

But this is a win for the traveling public, too. Someone once said that “government is the name we give to those things we decide to do together.” This is a classic example. It never made sense to outsource this important process to the private sector.

And then the Secretary made it interesting: Ever wonder how many names are on that watch list? Well Chertoff decided to share some details. Estimates have ranged up to 1 million names. According to the Secretary, “there are fewer than 16,000 — that’s one six — 16,000 unique individuals who are selectees in TSA’s database.” (He further clarified, “That’s 16,000. One six.”)

He went on state that most people on the list “are not even American citizens” and the vast majority of the names are for further screening (selectee status); they are not necessarily banned from flying. That number is closer to 2,500, of which approximately 10% are American citizens, according to the Secretary.

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Comment by The Dave

October 23, 2008 @ 11:53 pm

16,000 unique individuals is interesting, but how many *names* are on the list?

Remember, the list doesn’t match individuals, it matches names. Names of politicians, musicians, children, and even federal air marshals.

Also remember that the TSA apparently identifies dozens of terrorism related hits each week.

If these individuals are so dangerous, why aren’t they being arrested? If they haven’t done anything worthy of arrest, why is their right to travel being infringed upon?

Comment by Christopher Tingus

October 24, 2008 @ 9:13 am

Interestingly, on a recent business trip to visit beltway government contacts – colleagues – friends -I, too was requested to come out of passenger line, somewhat surprised in being subjected to what I thought a rather detailed security screening.

From my perspective, as long as such security measures are implemented with “respect” to the individual who should be treated with dignity, I believe that more security personnel should be hired and trained and that more passengers should be subjected to security measures as after all, we are at war with those who seek our demise and we must do the best we can to thwart any threats.

As a passenger, I found the – inconvenience – welcome as it portrayed to me that for whatever reason I was chosen – if more scrutiny is given to more passengers then our skies will be that much safer.

During this our watch – we must do our utmost to assure our great nation a commitment and we must all be prepared to be inconvenienced as long an individual is treated with respect.

With the possibility that global economies will suffer even greater losses – though there are many astute individuals who differ and are much more optimistic – the world is that much less stable and we must be vigilant in every sector which means screening of more passengers, yet our rights must be given as much consideration as possible. A fine line indeed!

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 24, 2008 @ 10:27 am

Another indirect subsidy of the airline industry while the fundamental issue of airline security is not resolved: Specifically who provides security for the entirety of Airport operations including the terminal and is it adequate? Holiday traffic could make terminals an attractive target!

Comment by 49ers Jersey

August 15, 2011 @ 8:28 pm

Interestingly, on a recent business trip to visit beltway government contacts – colleagues – friends -I, too was requested to come out of passenger line, somewhat surprised in being subjected to what I thought a rather detailed security screening.

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