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Here is a revelation that is bound to push people to call up the airlines and cancel any upcoming airplane flights. About a month ago, on December 9th the head of the Justice Department’s Terrorist Screening Center, testified to congress that less than one percent of known terrorists are put on the now famous no-fly list.

Timothy J. Healy, director of the Justice Department’s Terrorist Screening Center testified in-front of the Senate Homeland Security Committee that the full “Terrorist Watchlist” included at that moment approximately 400,000 people, while the “No Fly” list included only about 3,400 of those—or 0.85 percent. (a video of Healy’s testimony is at bottom of the post).

It kind of reminds me of the old ivory soap commercials, The no fly list is 99.15% pure, PURE DANGER.

Although it was a public hearing, Healy’s statement to the committee about the tiny “No Fly” list was not reported at the time (or now) by any newspaper that appears in the Lexis-Nexis database.

After meeting with his national security team yesterday, President Barack Obama lamented that Adulmutallab had not been one of the people put on the “No Fly” list. “Counterterrorism officials have reviewed and updated our terrorist watch list system, including adding more individuals to the ‘no fly’ list,” said Obama. “And while our review has found that our watch-listing system is not broken, the failure to add Abdulmutallab to the ‘no fly’ list shows that this system needs to be strengthened.”

You think?

In his Dec. 9 testimony, Healy had stressed the smallness of the “No Fly” list, a theme that had also been sounded a year before by then-Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

“The terrorist watch list is made up of approximately 400,000 people, ranging from suicide bombers to financiers,” Healy said in his opening statement to the committee. “A small portion of the list is exported to TSA [the Transportation Security Administration] to create the No Fly list. In order to be placed on a No Fly list, a known or suspected terrorist must present a threat to civil aviation or national security. Consequently, the No Fly list is a very small subset of the terrorist watch list. It contains approximately 3,400 people. Of those, approximately 170 are U.S. citizens.”

“What kind of Idiot are you?” “I don’t know, how many kinds of Idiots are there? If a person is associating with terrorism, we should not let them near public transportation because EVERY known or suspected terrorists is a possible threat to civil aviation and national security.

The TSA also uses one other subset of the overall Terrorist Watchlist to screen air travelers. People on this list—called the “Selectee” list—are not automatically barred from flying but are targeted for intensified scrutiny when they arrive at an airport seeking to board a flight. At an October 28, 2008 press conference at Reagan national airport outside Washington, D.C., then-DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said that the “Selectee” list included fewer than 16,000 names drawn from the overall Terrorist Watchlist (formally known as the Terrorist Screening Database, or TSDB).

Oh great, a “quasi” no fly list. Why should the President care, he has his own plane.

“The truth is, there are fewer than 16,000–that’s 1-6 –16,000 unique individuals who are selectees in TSA’s database,” said Chertoff at that 2008 press conference. “Most of these people are not even American citizens. That’s 16,000, 1-6. And being a selectee, if you are a real selectee, means you’re going to get a little bit of extra scrutiny. But it does not bar you from getting on the airplane.”

At the same press conference, Chertoff said the “No Fly” list then included less than 2,500 people of whom only 10 percent were Americans. That would mean that between October 2008 and December 2009, when Healy testified to the Homeland Security Committee, the “No Fly” list grew by about 900 “known or suspected terrorists” while the number of Americans on the list declined somewhat.

…The size of the TSDB has apparently remained fairly stable over the past year. Rick Kopel, the principal deputy director of the Terrorist Screening Center, told the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security on September 19, 2008, that it even then included 400,000 people.

When implementing the congressionally mandated Secure Flight program, which gives TSA control over screening for terrorists trying to board flights in the U.S. or headed to the U.S., DHS decided it would ordinarily screen passengers only against the “No Fly” and “Selectee” lists and not against the full TSDB.

I can understand that, al Qaeda didn’t call the TSA up and say they would use the full TSDB, so you can’t blame it on Homeland security. Maybe they sent an email and it got stuck in their Junk email file.

“In general, the Secure Flight program will compare passenger information only to the No Fly and Selectee List components of the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), which contains the Government’s consolidated terrorist watch list, maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC),” said the October 28, 2008 edition of the Federal Register, which included the DHS’s regulatory plan for screening air passengers.

“In general, comparing passenger information against the No Fly and Selectee components of the TSDB during normal security circumstances will be satisfactory to counter the security threat versus using the entire TSDB,” said the register entry by DHS. “The No Fly and Selectee Lists are based on all the records in the TSDB and the No Fly and Selectee Lists represent the subset of names who meet the criteria of the No Fly and Selectee designations.”

....The 9/11 Commission Report said: “The ‘no fly’ and ‘automatic selectee’ lists include only those individuals who the U.S. government believes pose a direct threat of attacking aviation.” The commission recommended, however, that the TSA “should utilize the larger set of watchlists maintained by the federal government.”

Another recommendation we didn’t listen to.

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