Diplopundit’s 2009 Words and Phrases to Remember


DEMINT: New Diplopundit word meaning to block, to hold, as
in “Mr. X’s nomination to be ambassador
to Country Y has been deminted by Senator Z because of senatorial disapproval
over the dear leader’s hairdo.”Or, “I did not have a normal nomination process –
my nomination was deminted for months in the Senate by a guy who disliked my

FULL BODY SCAN: New airport screening technology to be deployed
soon at US airports.  Thanks to terrorism
suspect Abdulmutallab who foolishly hid explosives in his underpants, we will all
soon undergo full body scans.  I guess the new perk for the next decade will
soon be the “no full body scan” lane?       
VISAS VIPER: Charming name for a State telegram without any hollow
venom-conducting fangs. Visas Viper report on possible terrorists who are not
current visa applicants for the purpose of watchlisting them. There is also Visas Donkey, and Visas Bear, and
no, you can’t pick your own animal for this.
CIVILIAN UPLIFT: Atrocious new term for the civilian surge
under Afghanistan 2.0. My dictionary defines “uplift” as “a rise of land to a
higher elevation (as in the process of mountain building),” or “a brassiere
that lifts and supports the breasts.” Ooh.
IDLE CURIOSITY: All-time favorite excuse for non-work
activities conducted during office hours especially related but not confined to
passport record snooping. As in “It was
not my fault; idle curiosity made me do it!”  
HUMAN RESOURCE INITIATIVE (HRI): New term for diplomatic
hiring that used to be called Diplomacy 3.0, but is now called HRI in
congressional bills. Thank gods! 
HOUSE-ENVY: A serious illness that apparently afflicts a
certain portion of the Foreign Service community overseas; reportedly impacts
morale at some posts from Afghanistan Albania to Zimbabwe (Afghanistan
has apartments and hootches). Don’t panic.
This non-contagious illness only makes an occasional appearance in OIG reports.
New title under Afghanistan 2.0; everywhere else, US missions still use
the traditional term, DCM for Deputy Chief of Mission to refer to the number #2
person at the embassy. Criteria for using
the “deputy ambassador” title, anyone?   
COLD CASE: James E. Hogan, Foreign Service Officer last seen
in Curacao (a 15% cost of living and a three-year, two R&R diplomatic post and
popular tourist destination where a man disappeared without a trace on September
24, 2009). Perhaps sad for you and me, but devastating for the family.
MUZZLED:  Madam le
Consul. Her blog’s disappearance is the subject of latest idea submitted in the
Secretary’s Sounding Board to allow internal blogging at State. The time has come to “liberate”
blogging in the Dept? Stay tuned!
Best wishes to Diplopundit’s blog friends, tipsters and readers. Let me end this year with an old Egyptian blessing — may God stand between you and harm in all the empty
places you must walk. 
Have a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2010!


Quickie: Suicide Bomber Kills Eight at FOB Chapman

Worst single-day
casualty toll Since Beirut

Joby Warrick in
today’s issue of the Washington Post writes about a suicide attack that killed
8 American civilians in Afghanistan (Suicide
bomber attacks CIA base in Afghanistan, killing at least 8 Americans

| WaPo | December 31, 2009). Quick excerpts below:
A suicide bomber
infiltrated a CIA base in eastern Afghanistan
on Wednesday, killing at least eight Americans in what is believed to be the
deadliest single attack on U.S. intelligence personnel in the eight-year-long
war and one of the deadliest in the agency’s history, U.S. officials said.
The attack
represented an audacious blow to intelligence operatives at the vanguard of
U.S. counterterrorism operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan,
killing officials whose job involves plotting strikes against the Taliban, al-Qaeda
and other extremist groups that are active on the frontier between the two
nations. The facility that was targeted — Forward Operating Base Chapman — is
in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, which borders North Waziristan, the
Pakistani tribal area that is believed to be al-Qaeda’s home base.
A former senior
agency official said it was the worst single-day casualty toll for the agency
since eight CIA officers were killed in the attack on the U.S. Embassy in
Beirut in April 1983.
Read the whole
thing here.

Related articles by Zemanta

US Embassy Jakarta Issues Warden Message on Bali Warning

indonesia bali legong dancersImage by FriskoDude via Flickr

On December 31, 2009,
the US Embassy in Jakarta issued the following Warden Message on Bali. Reprinted
in part below:

The Bali Tourism Board widely distributed this message: “The
Governor of Bali Mr. Mangku Pastika wishes to share a message with all of us:
‘There is an indication of an attack to Bali tonight,’ but please don’t panic,
but put your security system to full alert.”  This message is shared
verbatim for your information. The safety and security recommendations in our
Consular Information Sheet, quoted below, remain valid.
“Indonesian police and security forces take active measures
against both ongoing threats posed by terrorist cells, including Jemaah
(JI), a U.S. government-designated terrorist organization that
carried out several bombings at various times from 2002 to 2009 and outbreaks
of violence elsewhere.  While Indonesia’s counterterrorism efforts have
been ongoing and partly successful, violent elements have demonstrated a
willingness and ability to carry out deadly attacks with little or no warning. 
Most recently, in November 2009, unknown assailants shot at foreigners in Banda
Aceh, North Sumatra, an area that was devastated by the 2004 tsunami and the
scene of a long-running separatist conflict that ended in 2005.  The
gunfire wounded a European development worker.  A house occupied by U.S.
citizen teachers was targeted and hit by gunfire, but there were no U.S.
citizen casualties.  In July 2009, attacks by armed assailants in Papua
resulted in several deaths, including security personnel and one Australian
national.  Also in July, suspected JI elements bombed two Western hotels
in Jakarta, killing nine Indonesians and foreigners and injuring over 50,
including six U.S. citizens.  U.S. citizens in Indonesia must be
physically and mentally prepared to cope with future attacks even as they go
about their normal daily routines.
Extremists may target both official and private interests,
including hotels, clubs and shopping centers.  While it may be difficult
to modify one’s behavior to counter risks in a country where places in which
U.S. citizens and other Westerners must congregate to live and work are well
known and few in number, it is also extremely necessary.  In their work
and daily living activities, and while traveling, U.S. citizens should be vigilant
and prudent at all times.  We urge U.S. citizens to monitor local news
reports, vary their routes and times, and maintain a low profile.  U.S.
citizens must consider the security and safety preparedness of hotels,
residences, restaurants, and entertainment or recreation venues that they

Americans living and traveling in Indonesia are urged to register and update
their contact information with the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, U.S. Consulate
General in Surabaya, U.S. Consulate Medan or U.S. Consular Agency in
Bali.  Registration facilitates the U.S. Mission’s contact with Americans
in emergency situations, and may be done on line and in advance of
travel.  Information on registering can be found at the U.S. Department of
State’s Consular Affairs website at http://travelregistration.state.gov
and at the Embassy’s website at http://jakarta.usembassy.gov.  All Travel Warnings,
Travel Alerts, Worldwide Cautions, and recent warden messages are posted on the
Embassy website.
Read the whole thing here.
Note that Warden
Messages are not easily visible on the main page of the US Embassy’s website.  When checking for updates, click on American Citizen Services
and select Notices
to Americans

Insider Quote: I now completely despise these words…

Wall of DeliverablesImage by Yandle via Flickr
“I’m spending all week this week in a training. This is also my last week on my current rotation, which means I have some projects to finish. This makes being unavailable 7 hours a day very inconvenient. Due to said training, I now completely despise the following words: “synergies”, “deliverables”, “results-oriented” and “tranche”. We’re only 2.5 days in. I’m sure there will be more.”

Carrie in Are You a Whiiiiiiiiiiiner??

from FS Blog: Worldwide Available
My Opinions Are Mine and Mine Alone

Quote: The Role of the Ambassador’s Wife

“The role of an Ambassador’s wife is multifaceted and
sometimes a bit misunderstood. To the outside world the life of an
ambassadorial couple is glitz and glamour, they live in palatial houses, are
driven by chauffeurs in large cars with flags, attend a whirlwind of parties.
But when you look behind the scenes, you see a different picture, especially
for the ambassador’s wives. First, many of these women are highly educated and
had successful careers in their home countries. By accompanying their husbands
in their postings, they become “trailing spouses” and risk losing part of their
identity. Increasingly women react either by continuing their own careers, thus
not joining their husbands, or by using their profession in the country of
assignation, thus combining their role of “ambassador’s wife” with their own
professional accomplishments. Another issue is also that ambassadorial couples
have budgetary resources that are insufficient for their representational
functions. As a result, many of the ambassador’s wives have to be ingenious
financial experts and astute organizers.”

Rita Janssen

Spouse of Ambassador Marc Franco, the head of the
Delegation of the European Commission to Russia
from Ambassador
and His Wife: One plus One Is More Than Two

Let the Finger-Pointing, Circular Firing Squad Begin …

That’s Just What Al-Qaeda is Counting On …
The off with her head calls came barely 24 hours after the attempted bombing of the Detroit flight. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s head, that is. 
What a great idea! Fire the head of homeland security, and wait for the nomination and vetting process to start from scratch with a new candidate.  Which, of course, can’t be done in days, or weeks, but months because you know – the candidate has to be scrupulously scrutinized to ensure there are no skeletons in his/her closets or no unpaid jaywalking tickets. Oh, and god forbid, a nanny problem!

And when all that is done, the new nominee, unless deminted in Congress like the TSA nominee must transition into his/her new role as top honcho of homeland security, and provide leadership to 225,000 employees in 7 sub-agencies, and 11 other components, plus tackle its $52 billion budget. 

I don’t care if that candidate is a genius. The fact is, transitioning into that leadership role won’t happen overnight as we might like to think. And while he/she is transitioning, Al Qaeda is rolling in their caves, laughing at how quickly we pick up their bait and diversion.  They will send their agents of chaos on to our commercial airlines (we’re not even talking about the land borders yet!) and expect these knee jerk emotional reactions from us. Why else would they claim ownership over Mr. Underpant’s failed attack? To sow fear and terror, and more fear and terror; and to watch us, most especially our politicians as they tear each other down — until we get so foul and twisted in our fears, we won’t know our heads from our tails.
The politicians who are using this incident as rocket boosters for their own ambitions should be lined up on the steps of the Capitol; and we should call on their mothers to publicly scold them for such shameful behavior.                       
In a related note, Thomas Lipscomb, a Senior Fellow at the Annenberg Center for the Digital Future also pens,  The Trouser Bomber Effect: Watching Government Cure Incompetence with Idiocy for Huffington Post: “Incompetent State Department consular officials and poor enforcement of visa procedures that have been in place long before the personal computer, the Xerox machine or even the jet airliner are the problem here.”
I supposed that is the easiest trick in the book — to scream “incompetence” when something like this happens.  But it shows a deep misunderstanding of the consular trade.  There are over 1500 consular officers in the Foreign Service. They are some of the hardest working folks I know. Most work more than 8 hours or weekends and are on call 24/7 with no additional compensation.  Perhaps, more than anyone else in a US mission, consular officers are dictated by manuals, guidelines, SOPs, and regulations. They are not freelancers, and the work that they do have almost zero optional parts. 
I wonder what he meant by “poor enforcement of visa procedures?”  That the suspect was issued a visa two years before his Detroit attack? That State did not know the Brits did not renew the suspect’s visa? US visa sections in over 200 embassies and consulate refuse visa applications every single work day, and as far as I know, we don’t tell the Brits about them. Why should they tell us about their refusals or nonrenewals? Now, it would have been much simpler if the father’s report was transmitted with an automatic “arrest” or “kill” button, right? But we still live by the rule of law.  

As one the U.S. intelligence official puts it to Spencer Ackerman — “Realistically, a lot of guys call every day and say their relative or former friend is dangerous,” the official explained. To use that level of information to revoke someone’s visa or stop someone from flying would be “unmanageable. We’d probably shut down air traffic.”
I don’t think folks really have an idea how much poison pen letters visa sections overseas get. If you take every single poison pen letter from jealous neighbors, ex-spouses, cranky relatives, broken families, old lovers, ditched boyfriends, mistresses, third wives, business competitors, etc, etc. as “word from god”  commercial travel as we know it would stop. Really.  No more Disneyland trips, no more shopping in New York, no more students for American universities and colleges, etc. etc. And congressional constituencies, even those still unable to vote would run to “their” representatives to complain, and senators and congressmen would send out congressional inquiries to embassies and consulates as to why so and so was refused a visa.

Finally, one more former Bushie has called for the visa function to be removed from the State Department to DHS saying that: “Granting visas is a function that most people at State relegate to the margins of their activities. State’s mandarins — foreign service officers or “FSOs” — look down at the consular officials who handle visas. This is considered a third-rate assignment, something young FSOs have to suffer through for a few years at the very start of their careers.”
He added that “Moving visa functions to DHS is no panacea, obviously, but the case of the would-be airline bomber Abdul Mutallab is perhaps suggestive. His multiple-entry visa to the U.S. was not cancelled by State, not even after his own father alerted U.S. Embassy officials in Nigeria of the danger he might present. His visa to enter the United Kingdom was cancelled, however, months ago.”
Of course, DHS is responsible for American’s homeland security and border control. Maybe DHS wants the visa adjudication function, maybe not.  No offense to our friends at DHS but I understand that there are 12 million illegal aliens in the United States that we have not caught or deported yet.  DHS has records of aliens entering the United States but there’s no one out there who actually knows when or if these aliens depart because DHS has no tracking system for them. Further, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, USCIS, one of DHS’s sub-agencies that deal with immigration is “actually still deep in the weeds and unable to keep up with the existing workload”. CIS reports that as of the end of June 2009, the agency had a backlog of nearly 2.7 million applications and petitions that were pending review, above and beyond the 1.8 million that had been completed that quarter. 
So yes — instead of figuring out what went wrong this time, so it won’t happen again next time — let’s just forgettaboutallthat and shuffle the decks, move this function from here to there. It’s all rather very simple, isn’t it?  We would, of course, all sleep like babies at night knowing that the same agency that could not get a handle on 12 million illegal aliens within our borders would now be tasked with issuing visas to all foreigners coming into the United States. You would find that exceptionally comforting, yes?      

Let’s pretend for a moment that the visa function was with DHS this past year. That when the suspect’s father went to the US Embassy to report his concern about his son, he talked to a DHS officer. As I understand it under current regulations, the DHS officer would have brought this to the attention to the Visas Viper Committee normally chaired by the Deputy Ambassador. A Visas Viper cable would be transmitted to the US as it happened in this case. The information would go to NTC, and an interagency committee decides to put the suspects name in the half-a million name database.  Would it have made a difference in the airport screening of this case? Given the same information, provided by DHS this time, instead of State, would they have decided to revoke the suspect’s visa?  If the information was not significant enough to put subject in the more restrictive “No-Fly” list, would it have been significant enough for visa revocation? 
Let’s presume that the revocation occurred. It is not as simple as stamping the visa “revoked” or “cancelled.” A report has to be made out, a “lookout” created and submitted, actual revocation documents drafted and approved by a responsible official, the subject of revocation had to be notified and asked to present his visa at the embassy for physical cancellation, the information had to be sent by DHS to other agencies including its child agency, CBP to warn them of possible entry, and its other child agency, ICE to locate, apprehend and remove subject if he was inside the United States. 
In an alternate universe this might work, in a real world, I doubt it. 
We need to find out what happened in this case without the hysteria or the urge to convene the circular firing squad. We need everyone’s help to get to the bottom of this, without the constant fear that their jobs are on the line — whether in the airports, the airlines, or any of our relevant agencies, including the CIA and other intel agencies. We must refuse to let mob mentality drive this issue, let our people do their work and hope that they are now, learning more quickly to connect the dots before another incident happens. What we don’t want to happen is for officials to lower the threshold for inclusion as CYA, and in so doing presents our analysts with more haystack than they can manage.       
As Peter Feaver  writes in FP, Off with her head? I’d rather know what’s on Napolitano’s mind first: “It may well be that there were lapses of judgment and oversight that rise to firing offenses. But let’s investigate the alleged crime before we execute the sentence.”

Related articles by Zemanta

Officially Out: Jide Zeitlin Withdraws Nomination for “Personal Reasons”

Josh Rogin of The Cable had an exclusive yesterday on Jide Zeitlin, President Obama’s nominee as US Representative to the United Nations for U.N. Management and Reform with the rank of Ambassador (Controversial Obama U.N. nominee withdraws for “personal reasons,” official says | The Cable | December 29, 2009).

The report cites Zeitlin’s trouble in India (the case was settled between IMIL and Shatakshi Contractors, according to settlement documents obtained by The Cable) and his earlier legal problem with American Tower. Also this:
“But concerns about his nomination grew as rumors swirled around Washington and New York that Zeitlin was engaged in other activities that called into question his overall character and also may have included elements of identity fraud.
Specifically, one woman contacted several government offices and multiple news outlets, including The Cable, with allegations that Zeitlin had used deception to lure her into what eventually she claims was a romantic relationship. Those allegations could not be independently confirmed by The Cable. The administration official declined to comment as to whether they had been investigated as part of Zeitlin’s vetting process or afterwards. In his letter, Zeitlin said his withdrawal was due to “personal reasons,” the administration official said.” 

We have not seen the official statement of withdrawal sent to the Senate yet, but folks are on a holiday break.  And — Josh’s report includes a blurb from White House spokesman Tommy Vietor when contacted about the story — “We appreciate his willingness to serve and wish him the best of luck in the future.”
Related Posts:
Related Item:

January 21, 2010 – Withdrawals Sent to the Senate

Insider Quote: A very daunting undertaking

“Because the war in Iraq is winding down, but as the war winds down and our military troops leave, the State Department and USAID [United States Agency for International Development] are expected to assume even more responsibility. I’ll give you one example: the military has been doing the police training in Iraq. They have a lot of resources to do these jobs. Not only tens of thousands of bodies but all kinds of equipment and flexibility in funding streams that are not part of the experience of the State Department or USAID, and I’m having to accept the responsibility, which is going to be handed off. That’s a very daunting undertaking.”
Secretary of State

Abdulmutallab, Visas Viper, and Visa Revocations

Terrorist Screening CenterImage via Wikipedia

Yesterday, Ian Kelly, the Department Spokesman talked about
the case of terrorist suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and the State
Department role in this incident. Excerpts below. You can read the whole thing here:

we issue the visa, and there comes – there is information subsequent to that
issuance, the State Department role is to pass that information on, which is
what we did after this November 19 visit. So we sent in what’s called a VISAS
VIPER cable. This is a system that was set up after November – September 11,
2001, and under this system, when we receive information that could cause the –
cause us concern, we send it in to the counterterrorism community for their
review. There was also set up, as you all know, the National Counterterrorism
Center. And this is the interagency process that reviews the information as
this information comes in.
I stop you –
the information in this VISAS VIPER cable was insufficient for this interagency
review process to make a determination that this individual’s visa should be
revoked. It wasn’t – it’s not – it’s insufficient, and it is not a State
Department determination per se in these kinds of issues under – let me give
you the name of the act of Congress – under the Enhanced Border Security and
Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002
, the State Department is mandated to utilize this
VISAS VIPER system when we get information, like we did on November 19.
MR. KELLY: […] Clearly, we need to review all of our
procedures, and that’s what the President has ordered the interagency community
to do. And Secretary Clinton is also going to ask the State Department,
primarily our consular division, to review all of our processes. We did what we
were supposed to do under this Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act.
But as you know, the President has ordered a complete view, and we’ll have to
see what comes out of that.
One of the issues we have to deal with is that we get
thousands of pieces of information that are not always completely accurate. I
mean, you have a lot of – what do you call them, poison pen messages, of people
trying to pass on derogatory information. So, I mean, we have to be careful
about when we put somebody on a watch list.
QUESTION: It’s the same subject, just the claim of responsibility
for this. Al-Qaida in Arabian Peninsula just said it’s responsible for having
attempted this attack and said that they’re calling for the killing of all
Western embassy workers in the region. I don’t know if you guys know about
this. Have you done anything special in the region in light of this attempted
MR. KELLY: I have not heard this. I mean, obviously,
we take the security of our embassy and our – our embassies and our colleagues
extremely seriously. I mean, we’ll review this. If it indeed is a credible
threat, we’ll review it and see if we need to take action.

This may not be clear to folks but the VISAS VIPER telegrams
report on possible terrorists who are not current visa applicants for the
purpose of watchlisting them. For when they apply or reapply for visas.  As the regulations point
out, the primary goal of
the VISAS VIPER Program is to develop high quality usable records on possible
terrorists. It is essential to develop and report all available identifying
data on the subjects of VISAS VIPER telegrams. Derogatory information on a
suspected terrorist, regardless of its gravity, is of little value unless it
can be linked to that individual should he or she apply for a visa or for entry
into the United States (9 FAM
40.37 N7.1 Identification of Subject)
From LAT’s
today: “When he purchased his ticket from Lagos to Amsterdam on
Dec. 16, a Nigerian official said, his passport and U.S. visa were scanned and
his name was checked against a watch list. Despite his father’s intervention,
Abdulmutallab’s name hadn’t been added to either a 3,400-name no-fly list or a
14,000-name roster of persons who could be subjected to intensive searches. His
name was added to a 555,000-name list of
persons considered suspicious but less of a threat. Apparently he would have
received greater scrutiny if he applied for another visa. The problem was that
he already had one.”
Which brings us to the subject of visa revocations – for aliens suspected of terrorism connections.
A five-year old GAO report indicated that in
2004, the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), an interagency group organized
under the FBI, identified the visa revocation process as a potential homeland
security vulnerability and developed an informal process for TSC to handle visa
revocation cases (see Figure 1: The Visa
Revocation Process in Effect from October through December 2003):

“As a result,
it developed a process for TSC to coordinate the sharing of information on visa
revocation cases. This process outlines responsibilities for representatives from State, CBP, ICE,
and the FBI who are assigned to TSC. According to a TSC official, this process
is designed to coordinate the efforts of these representatives, without relying
on formal notifications transmitted among the agencies. When new names are added
to the TIPOFF database, all the agency representatives receive this information
at the same time. According to TSC’s new process, State personnel assigned to
TSC determine if the person has a valid visa; CBP personnel determine if the individual may be in the country;
and, if the individual is in the country, ICE and FBI personnel determine if
they have open investigations of the individual. Because this process was
developed after the October to December 2003 time period, we did not assess its

This GAO report had not been updated since 2004, so it’s
hard to tell if this system is still in place. In its report, the GAO had concluded
that there is no government-wide policy outlining roles and responsibilities
for the visa revocation process, and State and DHS have not completed their
discussions on legal and policy issues related to removing individuals with
revoked visas from the United States (See Edson’s testimony on this specific issue, also from 2004).
The most recent information I could locate on visa
revocation comes from the testimony of Janice
L. Jacobs, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs on December
9 before the U.S.
Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs:  
“The CLASSnamecheck
system, which is updated daily, includes information from the Department of
State, FBI, DHS, and intelligence from other agencies.  Also included in
CLASS is derogatory information regarding known or suspected terrorists (KSTs)
from the Terrorist Screening Database, which is maintained by the TSC and
contains the names of terrorists nominated by all USG sources. Possible
matches are reviewed by USG agencies in Washington, D.C., prior to any visa
being issued.  Under a complementary program, new name entries in the Terrorist Screening Database are checked against records of previously issued valid
visas, enabling us to revoke visas issued to KSTs.  Since September 11,
2001, we have revoked more than 1,700 visas of individuals about whom,
subsequent to visa issuance, we received information that potentially connected
the visa holder to terrorism.”
That gives us a
number but does not give us a much clearer look into this particular case,
unfortunately, or the relevant interagency process. I am sure with the House
and the Senate indicating their desire to hold hearings on this, we should
learn more in January when the congressional session resumes.         
There is, of course, a lot of noise on this case right now
including reports that authorities in Amsterdam
are investigating claims
that an accomplice may have helped Abdulmutallab
board Flight 253 without a passport, possibly by claiming to be a Sudanese or Syrian refugee.  If that story pans out, I
expect attention will shift quickly to the scrutiny of our refuge policies. 
Still, I hope that this case is not only a lesson, but a
reason for top down reviews of our systems and processes and for continued vigilance. We are thankful that Abdulmutallab also called  Umar Farouk al-Nigiri – the Nigerian by Al Qaeda succeeded only in  setting fire to his leg and crotch in his failed murderous attempt.  But we already know that the bad
guys only had to get it right once…

To our friends in the Arabian Peninsula, stay safe.
Related Items:

Related articles by Zemanta

Understanding the No Fly and Selectee Lists, Sort of…

2009 IG Inspection Says  No Fly List Reduce Vulnerabilities, but Additional Vulnerabilities May Exist

The Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security
this past July released a redacted report on the Role of
the No Fly and Selectee Lists in Securing Commercial Aviation

The report includes background on the Secure Flight Program
Implementation, Terrorist Screening Database, the No Fly and Selectee Lists and
other Watch Lists Derived From the Terrorist Screening Database.  The OIG in its review writes that the No Fly
and Selectee Lists reduce vulnerabilities to commercial aviation security, but that
additional vulnerabilities may exist:

“The No Fly and Selectee lists are subsets of the TSDB, the
federal government’s consolidated watch list. The name inclusion criteria for
these two lists are more narrowly focused and restrictive than the inclusion
criteria for the entire TSDB. Specifically, the No Fly and Selectee lists focus
on aviation security and concentrate on [REDACTED].
Although the No Fly and Selectee lists are largely
successful in identifying potential terrorists who could threaten commercial aviation, some
individuals not included on the lists may also present threats to aviation

Below is an excerpt
from the report on the No Fly and Selectee Lists section:
No Fly and Selectee Lists
The No Fly and Selectee lists, two TSDB derivative watch
lists, are unique among all watch lists derived from the TSDB. They are the
only derivative watch lists that have their own minimum substantive derogatory criteria
requirements. These requirements are considerably more stringent than the
TSDB’s known or reasonably suspected standard. Additionally, the No Fly and
Selectee lists have the narrowest minimum biographic inclusion criteria of all
TSDB watch lists.
Minimum Inclusion Criteria
The No Fly and Selectee inclusion criteria were initially
established in October 2004 by the Homeland Security Council. This council is a
cabinet-level body that coordinates homeland security–related activities and
promotes effective homeland security policy development and implementation. The
No Fly and Selectee Lists Implementation Guidance accompanying the
inclusion criteria was released in January 2005. When establishing the initial
criteria, responsibility for maintenance and export of the lists was
transferred to the TSC. Prior to this time, TSA maintained the No Fly and
Selectee lists. The lists were created in September 2001, before TSA was
established, when the Federal Aviation Administration received 125 names from
the FBI for inclusion on a No Fly list.
No Fly List
The TSC updated and supplemented the implementation guidance
in July 2006. Recently, the Homeland Security Council [REDACTED] to allow for inclusion
of more individuals on the No Fly list. The TSC’s Policy Board Working Group
followed suit with new implementation guidance, all of which went into effect
in June 2008. Appendix D provides more detail on the No Fly and Selectee
List Implementation Guidance
(DS note:
guidance extensively redacted).
Two paragraphs [REDACTED]
Selectee List
The derogatory information criteria for including an
individual on the Selectee list require that an individual who is ineligible
for inclusion on the No Fly list meet [REDACTED] the Selectee list criteria. Specifically, the Selectee list
should include any person, regardless of citizenship, who is: [REDACTED]
In applying more narrow requirements than the TSDB’s minimum
substantive derogatory criteria requirements, the No Fly and Selectee lists are
intended to prevent specific categories of terrorists from boarding commercial
aircraft or subject these terrorists to secondary screening prior to boarding,
and are not for use as law enforcement or intelligence-gathering tools. Past
and present implementation guidance emphasizes that the criteria for the No Fly
list require a [REDACTED] and that the Selectee list is not a default for those
who do not qualify for inclusion on the No Fly list.
The current minimum biographic inclusion criteria for the No
Fly and Selectee lists, which were not changed during the June 2008 policy
revisions, require a [REDACTED] for a TSDB record to export to either list. [REDACTED] Given
the restrictive derogatory and biographic criteria for inclusion on the No Fly and
Selectee lists, these lists combined comprise the smallest exported subset of the
TSDB. As of May 2008, the No Fly list contained approximately [REDACTED] records,
and the Selectee list contained approximately [REDACTED] records, collectively
comprising of the TSDB’s records. Additionally, the combined number of No Fly
and Selectee records represents approximately [REDACTED] distinct identities,
of which are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
Process for Inclusion on the No Fly and Selectee Lists
Redundancies in the process through which individuals are
added to the No Fly or Selectee list ensure that the proper individuals are
watch-listed. For international terrorists, this process starts with a federal
agency, usually a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community, nominating an
individual for inclusion in TIDE. The NCTC’s Terrorist Identities Group reviews
nominations for the reliability of derogatory information and the sufficiency
of biographic identifying information.
Nominating agencies can recommend an individual for
inclusion on specific TSDB derivative watch lists, such as the No Fly and
Selectee lists. Additionally, although the NCTC is not a nominator, its
Terrorist Identities Group analysts, after reviewing all source intelligence
information, may identify eligible individuals for watch-listing and contact
the originator of the intelligence to request that the individual be nominated
for inclusion in TIDE with specific watch list recommendations. Domestic
terrorists are nominated to the TSDB via the FBI’s Terrorist Review and
Examination Unit, by FBI case agents, and by the FBI’s Counterterrorism
Division; also, each of these can make specific watch list recommendations.
[REDACTED] the NCTC transmits to the TSC an export of
additions and modifications of biographic and biometric identifiers from TIDE, resulting
in additions, modifications, and deletions to the TSDB.  These transmissions are collectively referred
to as nominations. Analysts in the Nominations and Data Integrity Unit at the
TSC perform a comprehensive review of each nomination for inclusion eligibility
in the TSDB and for appropriateness of export to the various watch lists. As
part of this review, TSC analysts review specific recommendations for initial
No Fly or Selectee watch-listing, as well as follow-up recommendations for
changes to an individual’s No Fly or Selectee status. This review ensures that recommendations
are consistent with the biographic and derogatory inclusion criteria. Appendix
E provides a graphic representation of the No Fly and Selectee list nomination
When TSC analysts recommend a change to an individual’s No
Fly or Selectee status, the nomination is forwarded to TSA subject matter
experts (SME), who are detailed to the TSC from TSA’s Office of Intelligence
and Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS). The SMEs review the previous analyst’s
notes and all accessible derogatory information associated with the nomination.
When SMEs determine that a change to the No Fly or Selectee status is warranted,
TSA coordinates the change with the FBI’s Terrorist Review and Examination Unit
and case agents for FBI investigative subjects, or with the NCTC for
nominations from other federal agencies.
Domestic terrorism nominations go through a similar process.
TSC domestic terrorism SMEs also review nominations for TSDB inclusion
eligibility and for appropriateness to export to various watch lists, including
the No Fly and Selectee lists. The SMEs coordinate with the Terrorist Review
and Examination Unit to resolve any issues with a nomination or its
watch-listing recommendation.
Other Watch Lists Derived From the Terrorist Screening
In addition to the No Fly and Selectee lists, the TSDB
exports daily to three other federal watch lists that are also used to conduct
terrorism screening. Although none of these databases has its own minimum
substantive derogatory criteria beyond the known or reasonably suspected
standard, each has minimum biographic criteria requirements and some have
additional restrictions.
The databases include: 1) U.S. Customs and Border
Protection’s TECS Database,

2) Department
of State’s Consular Lookout and Support System
|The Department
of State’s Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS) is a name-checking
system used to screen visa applications for travel to the United States. A visa
allows a foreign national to travel to a U.S. port of entry to request
admittance into the country. Administered by the Visa Office within the
Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, CLASS is used by consular
officers abroad to screen the names of visa applicants against a number of
government watch lists, including an exported subset of the TSDB. Once a CLASS
name search identifies an individual, and that identity is verified, Department
of State consular officers make a determination of visa eligibility according
to federal law. 3) Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Violent Gang and Terrorist
Organization File
and one other
list: Additional Non-Federal Watch List Terrorist Screening Database

The OIG report provided one recommendation to TSA:

We recommend that the Assistant Secretary, Transportation
Security Administration:
Recommendation #1: Determine whether it is
appropriate to [REDACTED] to No Fly restrictions or additional screening prior
to boarding an aircraft.
TSA Response: TSA concurred in part with this
recommendation. In its response, TSA management said the nomination criteria
for each list produced from the TSDB are developed and approved by a
multiagency working group overseen by the Homeland Security Council. Each
individual nominated to a terrorist watch list must independently meet the
nomination criteria in order to be watch-listed. [REDACTED] would require an
amendment to the nomination criteria.

[REDACTED] on the No Fly and Selectee lists, TSA said the only apparent and
effective way to ensure that these individuals are restricted from boarding an aircraft
or undergo additional screening would be to add them to the No Fly or Selectee
list. TSA management said this would [REDACTED], and raises privacy and other
concerns. [REDACTED] listed on the No Fly or Selectee list meet the criteria
for nomination to either list, these individuals will be placed on the list.

TSA management responded further that it will need to
explore this issue with other interested agencies to determine whether [REDACTED]
on the No Fly and Selectee lists to these lists is a prudent step that would
enhance security. However, given the privacy and rights issues involved in this
recommendation, TSA management said that it is highly unlikely the lists would
be [REDACTED] in this manner.

Related Item:

Related articles by Zemanta