Katko questions effectiveness of terrorist watchlist

Chair of the of House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation Security John Katko (R-NY) called on top counterterrorism officials on Friday to provide details surrounding the U.S. terrorist watchlists.

Katko joined many Americans in shock and concern that neither of the identified San Bernardino shooting suspects were on any U.S. government terrorist watchlists despite allegedly being radicalized at least a year prior to the attack, which was confirmed by Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations James Comey.

“I am greatly concerned that our nation’s current terrorist watchlists – including the no fly list – fail to fix our nation’s security vulnerabilities,” Katko said. “We cannot rely on inaccurate data, and we must make sure if someone is placed on a no fly list, that they actually pose a security risk. In addition to this investigation, I will continue to work with our intelligence communities to determine which individuals on the lists are actual terror threats and establish a framework to ensure Americans have due process protections.”

In a letter to Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Nicholas Rasmussen and Director of the Terrorist Screening Center Christopher Pieta, Katko sought information as to how many individuals are in the Terrorist Identities Datamart and, of that number, how many are U.S. citizens and how many are resident aliens. Katko also sought answers as to what criteria is used in determining if someone will be placed in the data base.

Katko’s letter also requested information on the number of individuals in the Terrorist Screening Database and the FBI’s Automated Case Support System, as well as what agencies can submit data for inclusion to the lists and what criteria is used in placing someone on the list.

Other questions posed by the letters include how often the No Fly List is updated or reviewed and how many people have been mistakenly placed on the list since 2005.

Katko also highlighted the TSA’s failure to identify 73 aviation workers with potential links to terrorism earlier this year.

“These examples raise serious questions about the methodology used to identify potential terrorist threats and appropriately place individuals on terrorist watchlists,” Katko said. “I am deeply concerned that we are failing to identify the real and current threats, while placing innocent Americans on lists that restrict their freedom of movement and travel.

“Terrorist watchlists, including the no-fly list, are often based on incomplete information and unreasonable suspicions. While I understand that the redress process has greatly improved over the last several years, there remains a lack of robust and complete due process for individuals who learn they are on the watchlist.”

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