Terrorist Watchlist Checks and Air Passenger Prescreening
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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Considerable controversy surrounds U.S. air passenger prescreening and terrorist watchlist checks. In the past, such controversy centered around diverted international flights and misidentified passengers. More recently, however, the foiled conspiracy to bomb airliners bound for the United States from the United Kingdom UK has raised questions about the adequacy of existing processes to prescreen air passengers against terrorist watchlists. Observers have noted that the suspected conspirators may have been able to board aircraft bound for the United States without having been screened against the consolidated terrorist screening database TSDB maintained by the U.S. government prior to the flights departure. Many of those observers have also noted that because the UK is a participant in the visa waiver program, British nationals are able to visit the United States temporarily for business or pleasure without acquiring a visa at a U.S. consular post abroad - a process during which they would be screened against the TSDB. Although all ticket purchasers are screened against aviation security watchlists the No Fly and Automatic Selectee lists at the point of purchase by air carriers, some international air passengers may not be screened against the larger, consolidated TSDB by U.S. border security officials prior to a flight s departure wheels up if they purchased their tickets just prior to the gates closing on a flight.
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