Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Understanding the No Fly and Selectee Lists, Sort of...

2009 IG Inspection Says  No Fly List Reduce Vulnerabilities, but Additional Vulnerabilities May Exist

The Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security this past July released a redacted report on the Role of the No Fly and Selectee Lists in Securing Commercial Aviation.  The report includes background on the Secure Flight Program Implementation, Terrorist Screening Database, the No Fly and Selectee Lists and other Watch Lists Derived From the Terrorist Screening Database.  The OIG in its review writes that the No Fly and Selectee Lists reduce vulnerabilities to commercial aviation security, but that additional vulnerabilities may exist:

“The No Fly and Selectee lists are subsets of the TSDB, the federal government’s consolidated watch list. The name inclusion criteria for these two lists are more narrowly focused and restrictive than the inclusion criteria for the entire TSDB. Specifically, the No Fly and Selectee lists focus on aviation security and concentrate on [REDACTED].

Although the No Fly and Selectee lists are largely successful in identifying potential terrorists who could threaten commercial aviation, some individuals not included on the lists may also present threats to aviation security.”

Below is an excerpt from the report on the No Fly and Selectee Lists section:

No Fly and Selectee Lists
The No Fly and Selectee lists, two TSDB derivative watch lists, are unique among all watch lists derived from the TSDB. They are the only derivative watch lists that have their own minimum substantive derogatory criteria requirements. These requirements are considerably more stringent than the TSDB’s known or reasonably suspected standard. Additionally, the No Fly and Selectee lists have the narrowest minimum biographic inclusion criteria of all TSDB watch lists.

Minimum Inclusion Criteria
The No Fly and Selectee inclusion criteria were initially established in October 2004 by the Homeland Security Council. This council is a cabinet-level body that coordinates homeland security–related activities and promotes effective homeland security policy development and implementation. The No Fly and Selectee Lists Implementation Guidance accompanying the inclusion criteria was released in January 2005. When establishing the initial criteria, responsibility for maintenance and export of the lists was transferred to the TSC. Prior to this time, TSA maintained the No Fly and Selectee lists. The lists were created in September 2001, before TSA was established, when the Federal Aviation Administration received 125 names from the FBI for inclusion on a No Fly list.

No Fly List Criteria
The TSC updated and supplemented the implementation guidance in July 2006. Recently, the Homeland Security Council [REDACTED] to allow for inclusion of more individuals on the No Fly list. The TSC’s Policy Board Working Group followed suit with new implementation guidance, all of which went into effect in June 2008. Appendix D provides more detail on the No Fly and Selectee List Implementation Guidance (DS note: guidance extensively redacted).

Two paragraphs [REDACTED]

Selectee List Criteria
The derogatory information criteria for including an individual on the Selectee list require that an individual who is ineligible for inclusion on the No Fly list meet [REDACTED] the Selectee list criteria. Specifically, the Selectee list should include any person, regardless of citizenship, who is: [REDACTED]


In applying more narrow requirements than the TSDB’s minimum substantive derogatory criteria requirements, the No Fly and Selectee lists are intended to prevent specific categories of terrorists from boarding commercial aircraft or subject these terrorists to secondary screening prior to boarding, and are not for use as law enforcement or intelligence-gathering tools. Past and present implementation guidance emphasizes that the criteria for the No Fly list require a [REDACTED] and that the Selectee list is not a default for those who do not qualify for inclusion on the No Fly list.

The current minimum biographic inclusion criteria for the No Fly and Selectee lists, which were not changed during the June 2008 policy revisions, require a [REDACTED] for a TSDB record to export to either list. [REDACTED] Given the restrictive derogatory and biographic criteria for inclusion on the No Fly and Selectee lists, these lists combined comprise the smallest exported subset of the TSDB. As of May 2008, the No Fly list contained approximately [REDACTED] records, and the Selectee list contained approximately [REDACTED] records, collectively comprising of the TSDB’s records. Additionally, the combined number of No Fly and Selectee records represents approximately [REDACTED] distinct identities, of which are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

Process for Inclusion on the No Fly and Selectee Lists
Redundancies in the process through which individuals are added to the No Fly or Selectee list ensure that the proper individuals are watch-listed. For international terrorists, this process starts with a federal agency, usually a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community, nominating an individual for inclusion in TIDE. The NCTC’s Terrorist Identities Group reviews nominations for the reliability of derogatory information and the sufficiency of biographic identifying information.

Nominating agencies can recommend an individual for inclusion on specific TSDB derivative watch lists, such as the No Fly and Selectee lists. Additionally, although the NCTC is not a nominator, its Terrorist Identities Group analysts, after reviewing all source intelligence information, may identify eligible individuals for watch-listing and contact the originator of the intelligence to request that the individual be nominated for inclusion in TIDE with specific watch list recommendations. Domestic terrorists are nominated to the TSDB via the FBI’s Terrorist Review and Examination Unit, by FBI case agents, and by the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division; also, each of these can make specific watch list recommendations.

[REDACTED] the NCTC transmits to the TSC an export of additions and modifications of biographic and biometric identifiers from TIDE, resulting in additions, modifications, and deletions to the TSDB.  These transmissions are collectively referred to as nominations. Analysts in the Nominations and Data Integrity Unit at the TSC perform a comprehensive review of each nomination for inclusion eligibility in the TSDB and for appropriateness of export to the various watch lists. As part of this review, TSC analysts review specific recommendations for initial No Fly or Selectee watch-listing, as well as follow-up recommendations for changes to an individual’s No Fly or Selectee status. This review ensures that recommendations are consistent with the biographic and derogatory inclusion criteria. Appendix E provides a graphic representation of the No Fly and Selectee list nomination process.

When TSC analysts recommend a change to an individual’s No Fly or Selectee status, the nomination is forwarded to TSA subject matter experts (SME), who are detailed to the TSC from TSA’s Office of Intelligence and Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS). The SMEs review the previous analyst’s notes and all accessible derogatory information associated with the nomination. When SMEs determine that a change to the No Fly or Selectee status is warranted, TSA coordinates the change with the FBI’s Terrorist Review and Examination Unit and case agents for FBI investigative subjects, or with the NCTC for nominations from other federal agencies.

Domestic terrorism nominations go through a similar process. TSC domestic terrorism SMEs also review nominations for TSDB inclusion eligibility and for appropriateness to export to various watch lists, including the No Fly and Selectee lists. The SMEs coordinate with the Terrorist Review and Examination Unit to resolve any issues with a nomination or its watch-listing recommendation.

Other Watch Lists Derived From the Terrorist Screening Database
In addition to the No Fly and Selectee lists, the TSDB exports daily to three other federal watch lists that are also used to conduct terrorism screening. Although none of these databases has its own minimum substantive derogatory criteria beyond the known or reasonably suspected standard, each has minimum biographic criteria requirements and some have additional restrictions.

The databases include: 1) U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s TECS Database,
2) Department of State’s Consular Lookout and Support System |The Department of State’s Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS) is a name-checking system used to screen visa applications for travel to the United States. A visa allows a foreign national to travel to a U.S. port of entry to request admittance into the country. Administered by the Visa Office within the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, CLASS is used by consular officers abroad to screen the names of visa applicants against a number of government watch lists, including an exported subset of the TSDB. Once a CLASS name search identifies an individual, and that identity is verified, Department of State consular officers make a determination of visa eligibility according to federal law. 3) Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File and one other list: Additional Non-Federal Watch List Terrorist Screening Database Exports.

The OIG report provided one recommendation to TSA:

We recommend that the Assistant Secretary, Transportation Security Administration:
Recommendation #1: Determine whether it is appropriate to [REDACTED] to No Fly restrictions or additional screening prior to boarding an aircraft.

TSA Response: TSA concurred in part with this recommendation. In its response, TSA management said the nomination criteria for each list produced from the TSDB are developed and approved by a multiagency working group overseen by the Homeland Security Council. Each individual nominated to a terrorist watch list must independently meet the nomination criteria in order to be watch-listed. [REDACTED] would require an amendment to the nomination criteria.

[REDACTED] on the No Fly and Selectee lists, TSA said the only apparent and effective way to ensure that these individuals are restricted from boarding an aircraft or undergo additional screening would be to add them to the No Fly or Selectee list. TSA management said this would [REDACTED], and raises privacy and other concerns. [REDACTED] listed on the No Fly or Selectee list meet the criteria for nomination to either list, these individuals will be placed on the list.

TSA management responded further that it will need to explore this issue with other interested agencies to determine whether [REDACTED] on the No Fly and Selectee lists to these lists is a prudent step that would enhance security. However, given the privacy and rights issues involved in this recommendation, TSA management said that it is highly unlikely the lists would be [REDACTED] in this manner.

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1 comment:

Gallocuarenta said...

To me, it appears Bush era policy, whether good or bad, was the source of the security blunder. It would be wise for Obama to get some part of this information around.