Homeland Security: Making a watch list and checking it twice?

The United States Department of Homeland Security collects and retains personal information on potential security risks to U.S. transportation security including airline passengers, flight crews, contractors and TSA employees – and anyone else’s personal information stored on several data lists created by the federal government since 9/11 in an attempt to “connect the dots” that may have been previously overlooked.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Transportation Security Administation’s (TSA) Office of Intelligence & Analysis Trends and Patterns Branch (TPB) will now integrate all the personally identifiable information (PII) collected into one “jumbo list,” in order to better analyze and identify previously unknown links or patterns among individuals who undergo a TSA security threat assessment.

Exactly whose information is stored in the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) and DHS and TSA compiled lists is a secret.

Most Americans are aware of the U.S. government “no fly lists,” which supposedly flag potential terrorists before they board commercial airliners, and security threat assessments of flight crews and passengers, and individuals with questionable identification and airport workers. Some lesser known TSA security threat assessments are conducted on registered overnight hotel guests (Registered Guest) at certain hotels physically connected to airport terminals, Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders, certain non-travelers, and anyone seeking Sensitive Security Information (SSI) in a civil proceeding, and much more.

On the FBI website, the agency quotes an Washington Post editorial to explain why watch lists such as “No Fly list” and “Selectee list” remain undisclosed:

“There are legitimate law enforcement reasons for keeping the list secret: Disclosure of such information would tip off known or suspected terrorists, who could then change their habits or identities to escape government scrutiny.”

Who can access all of the personal information collected by the U.S. government? It is entirely at the discretion of the TSA.

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