The Terrorist Screening Center Defends No Fly List : Tell Me More The Terrorist Screening Center says the 'No Fly' list does not prohibit American citizens from returning to the United States; they just can't fly.
NPR logo The Terrorist Screening Center Defends No Fly List

The Terrorist Screening Center Defends No Fly List

Last week we heard from U.S. citizen Ayman Latif and his ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner about why they are suing the FBI for placing Latif on a 'No Fly' list.  Former DHS official Stewart Baker also added his perspective, defending the list as an essential security measure.

Following the broadcast, a representative from the Terrorist Screening Center, which is part of the FBI, offered this response:


NPR’s story on the No Fly List covered several important issues but we felt it was important to clarify the record on some of the facts surrounding this important tool in our counterterrorism and homeland security efforts.

The government usually does not comment on matters which are the subject of litigation, which is why NPR’s request for participation in this story was declined.  Mr. Latif, the gentleman interviewed on the program, is suing the government.

Aside from the case, there are important facts that listeners should understand:

1.       The No Fly List does not prohibit a US citizen from returning to their country, it merely prevents an individual who is a suspected or known threat to aviation and national security from flying into, out of or within U.S. airspace.  Despite claims to the contrary on the program, there are several examples where individuals on the No Fly List flew to Canada or Mexico and then crossed the border.

2.       The No Fly List is a very important tool in US counterterrorism and homeland security efforts, and has been strongly supported by both the Obama and Bush Administrations.  US Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said in May that, “The no-fly list itself is one of our best lines of defense.”  Just recently, the No Fly List played a direct role in the apprehension and arrest of Faisal Shahzad, the US citizen convicted of attempting to detonate an explosive device in Times Square, as well as Adam Chesser, the US citizen who was indicted for attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization.  The No Fly List works.

3.       Terrorist organizations are increasing their efforts to recruit and radicalize US citizens.  In the past 18 months alone, 34 Americans have been accused of and charged with having ties to international terrorists.  It is important to include US citizens on the No Fly List if they present a threat to civil aviation.  Unfortunately, terrorists like using commercial airplanes as weapons of mass destruction.

4.       The number of US citizens on the No Fly List is very small.  In fact of the tens of thousands of people who have filed for redress with the Department of Homeland Security, 99.4 percent were never on the terrorist watch list, and more than 99.9 percent were never connected to the No Fly List.

The No Fly List is well-grounded in legal authority. Congress has expressly authorized airlines to prevent an individual who has been identified as a threat to civil aviation or national security from boarding an aircraft.[1] Congress has also mandated that the government assume responsibility for pre-screening passengers against the No Fly and Selectee lists which are part of the integrated terrorist watchlist maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center.[2]

For more information about the No Fly List, the Terrorist Screening Center, or the Terrorist Watchlist, please visit


Timothy J. Healy

Director, Terrorist Screening Center

Washington, DC