Terry Jeffrey

But, as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made clear in written testimony presented to the Homeland Security Committee the same day Leiter testified, her department does not stop all people on the TSDB from boarding planes. Nor does it require all people on the TSDB to undergo "additional security measures" before boarding planes.

"Specifically, to help make these determinations, DHS uses the No-Fly List and the Selectee List, two important subsets within the TSDB," Napolitano said. "Individuals on the No-Fly List should not receive a boarding pass for a flight to, from, over, or within the United States. Individuals on the Selectee List must go through additional security measures, including a full-body pat-down and a full physical examination of personal effects."

After their pat-downs, Selectee listees can be cleared to fly.

In joint written testimony, Leiter and Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the committee that would-be Flight 253 bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was on the TIDE list. But even if all the intelligence on him had been put together properly, he may not have made the Selectee or No Fly.

"Had all of the information the U.S. had available, fragmentary and otherwise, been linked together, his name would have undoubtedly been entered on the Terrorist Screening Database which is exported to the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security," said Leiter and Blair. "Whether he would have been placed on either the No Fly or Selectee list -- again based on the existing standards -- would have been determined by the strength of the analytic judgment."

Sen. Coburn asked Leiter: How would that judgment have been made?

"I think it really does come down to -- where he would have been placed, Selectee or No-Fly -- really would have depended on what the analytic judgment was at the time," said Leiter. "So looking at the signals intelligence and looking at what the father said, you put that together, and the question is, would the analyst have said, we have a potential al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula operative, or we have a potential al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula operative who may be boarding an airplane to use a suicide bomb, or this individual is involved in plotting around December 25th to attack the United States.

"On that first one, under the existing standards, I think he's likely in the Selectee, but likely not the No Fly," said Leiter. "On the later analytic judgments, it's more likely that he gets into the No-Fly criteria. It's easy, after the fact, to look back and say, clearly, he should have been in the No Fly, but it really would have depended on what the analyst said, putting all those pieces together, about what kind of operative he was and what his intention was."

Leiter told the committee: "We ought to have standards that allow, frankly, a greater degree of flexibility -- that you don't have to be able to predict exactly what an individual is going to do. If he has certain associations and is involved in any sort of operational activity, it's a pretty clear answer and that should be No Fly."

Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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