What Is the No Fly List?

The past week has been a difficult one for the United Stated of America. The riots at the Capitol left an officer, Brian Sicknick, and four others dead. In turn, people throughout the world have been caught on either side of the divide. I will leave it there, you can Google more about the politics of the riot and pending impeachment. 

I will, however, answer a couple of questions I have received more than a handful of times since last week: 1) What is the No Fly List? and 2) Why is #NoFlyList trending? Both questions are justified and I will do my best to answer them.

First things first. The “No Fly List” is included in the Terrorist Screening Database also known as the terrorist watchlist. The database contains identity information of known or suspected terrorists. The database is maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Terrorist Screening Center (TSC). A mandate was given after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 for government agencies and departments to share terrorism information. In 2003, the TSC was created to fulfill the mandate. 

From the FBI website, “The watchlist is a single database that contains sensitive national security and law enforcement information concerning the identities of those who are known or reasonably suspected of being involved in terrorist activities. The TSC uses the watchlist to support front-line screening agencies in positively identifying known or suspected terrorists who are attempting to obtain visas, enter the country, board an aircraft, or engage in other activities”.

If a person feels they are on the watchlist inadvertently, there are ways to address it. the Department of Homeland Security’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) provides the public with a single point of contact for individuals who have inquiries or seek resolution regarding difficulties they experience during travel screening at transportation hubs, such as being incorrectly delayed, denied boarding, identified for additional screening, or any other difficulties while traveling or seeking entry into the country. Since there are many reasons why a traveler may seek redress, DHS TRIP works with the TSC, as appropriate, when an inquiry appears to be related to the watchlist.

The TSC does not accept redress inquiries directly from the public. Instead, members of the public should contact the relevant screening agency with their questions or concerns about screening. The screening agency is in the best position to identify and resolve issues related to that agency’s screening process. 

As far as the second question, why is #NoFlyList trending? Airlines, such as Alaska and Delta, added passengers to the list after they caused disruptions on flights departing Washington D.C. after the riots. A passenger, initially thought to be on the No Fly List due to his participation at the Capitol, had a meltdown after being removed from an American Airlines’ flight because he refused to wear a mask. This led to him being recorded and posted online, where it was shared millions of times…hence, the reason for #NoFLyList to trend. One of the videos is below:

The FBI confirmed on Tuesday (January 12, 2021) that it was considering adding people linked to the riot at the U.S. Capitol to the No Fly List ahead of the Presidential Inauguration. FBI Washington Field Office Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono stated, “As for the no-fly list, we look at all tools and techniques we can possibly use within the FBI and that’s something that we are actively looking at”. 

The FBI went on to state that if an individual is deemed to be an immediate threat to other airline passengers or to the aircraft, the agencies and law enforcement at the airport have jurisdiction to detain or arrest the individual.

Final Word

While I have not been on a No Fly List, I have received additional screening in Japan because I purchased a same day, one way ticket. This situation is unfolding very quickly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced COVID testing requirements recently. With both of these significant travel restrictions, the U.S. should see less travelers in the following weeks.

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