TSA Administrator: 71 of 73 Aviation Employees on Terror Database Were ‘Scrubbed’ From It

By Melanie Arter | May 13, 2016 | 9:56am EDT
Travelers wait in line for security screening at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) –  TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger said that two of 73 aviation employees with access to secured areas of U.S. airports who were also on the TIDE (Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment) system – the government’s database of “information on international terrorist identities” – had their credentials removed, while the other 71 were “scrubbed” from the database on the advice of the FBI.

A DHS Office of Inspector General report titled, “TSA Can Improve Aviation Worker Vetting,” and dated June 4, 2015 said, “our testing showed that TSA did not identify 73 individuals with terrorism-related category codes because TSA is not authorized to receive all terrorism-related information under current interagency watchlisting policy,” the OIG report found.


According to its website, TIDE “is the U.S. Government’s (USG) central repository of information on international terrorist identities.” It includes all information the federal government “possesses related to the identities of individuals known or appropriately suspected to be or to have been involved in activities constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism (with the exception of purely domestic terrorism information).”

During a House Oversight Committee hearing on misconduct within the Transportation Security Administration on Thursday, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) said, “We had a case awhile ago. I think there were like 71 employees who were on that no-fly list terrorist watch list that were actually working in some of our airports, and you came in, and you changed that system. Were those employees, were they removed?

“And I realize…the reason that was given was that TSA was not privy to those lists on which those employees who were on the terrorist watch list or the no-fly list were allowed to be employed in airports in secure areas, but when you went in, I understand from our last conversation, we cleaned that up, and I want to know how it was cleaned up. Were they fired or what happened there?” Lynch asked Neffenger.

“Just to clarify, they actually weren’t on no-fly or the watch list,” Neffenger said, adding that the individuals were in the TIDE database. 

“This is information that may or may not indicate a direct association with terrorism,” he said. “So one of the first things we did was, I wanted the FBI’s read on every one of these individuals, and the answer back was that none of them met sufficient information to actually directly call them a terrorist or associate of a terrorist.

“But that said, we looked back at it. Many no longer hold their credentials. Two of them had their credentials removed, and the remainder have actually been scrubbed out of the database on the advice of the FBI,” Neffenger said, adding that it was “very valuable” to get “automated access to the categories of that separate database.”

As a result, the TSA was able to “feed into the terrorist watch list or the terrorist screening database, and now we do a full automated review of every single credential holder against that database, and if anybody pops up in any category, it allows you to take a harder look at them – which we do – and then we then go back to the intelligence community and to the FBI, and we do a scrub on those individuals,” he said.

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