Am I in the Terrorist Screening Database?

By | January 5th, 2010

One of the most disturbing aspects of the whole subpoena unpleasantness over the New Year’s holiday is that the agents who came to my colleague Steve Frischling’s home allegedly threatened to revoke some of his security clearance. I wondered if they might do the same thing to me, perhaps adding my name to the Terrorist Screening Database.

I won’t leave you in suspense: They didn’t.

Yesterday I checked in for my Southwest Airlines flight to Las Vegas and this morning I passed through the TSA checkpoint without incident.

But what if they had? I’d probably be out of luck.

Under Homeland Security Presidential Directive 6, the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) now offers “one-stop shopping” so that every government screener is using the same terrorist watchlist — whether it is an airport screener, an embassy official issuing visas overseas, or a state or local law enforcement officer on the street, according to the FBI.

The TSC allows government agencies to run name checks against the same comprehensive list with the most accurate, up-to-date information about known and suspected terrorists.

Consolidating the database under the TSC made sense. Before that, information about known or suspected terrorists was dispersed throughout the U.S. government and no one agency was charged with consolidating it and making it available for use in terrorist screening.

But what doesn’t make sense is that if your name is on the list, they can’t tell you.

According to the FBI:

The TSC cannot reveal whether a particular person is in the TSDB. The TSDB remains an effective tool in the government’s counterterrorism efforts because its contents are not disclosed.

If TSC revealed who was in the TSDB, terrorist organizations would be able to circumvent the purpose of the terrorist watchlist by determining in advance which of their members are likely to be questioned or detained.

I disagree. Revealing the names of the people on the TSC would serve several purposes, including exposing the names of people who shouldn’t be on the list and making the public aware of who is a likely terrorist. Many states publish the names of sex offenders for the same reason — to make the public aware that they may be exposed to a would-be criminal.

Related story:   TSA backtracks on private screeners amid lawsuits

I plan to file a request under the Federal Freedom of Information Act to reveal the names on the TSC. When I get it, I will publish it.

  • Kevin

    I was told that becuz I was in the military and or voted for guns writes that I am a terrorist. I would like to find out if  “I am” on a terrorist list. How would I find this info.

We want your feedback. Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.