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Border Watchlisting a Decade after 9/11

August 1, 2011
By Janice Kephart

In this Backgrounder & Report, Janice Kephart finds that the tedious process of watchlisting and making watchlists available to our frontline border and aviation operators is the most important tool our nation has to curtail attempted “legitimate”

customs documents

In this Backgrounder & Report, Janice Kephart finds that the tedious process of watchlisting and making watchlists available to our frontline border and aviation operators is the most important tool our nation has to curtail attempted “legitimate” terrorist travel — meaning, those terrorists who seek to use our border and aviation system to enter the United States. The 9/11 Commission recommended significant changes to watchlisting, including merging 11 disparate watchlists into one base list. Today, this single list is simply termed the “Terrorist Watchlist.” The entity recommended to accomplish this goal was, and now is, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). The Commission’s focus on watchlisting addresses — in part — findings of fact of missed watchlist opportunities of (at least) two 9/11 hijackers who were known to the CIA in March 2000, but whose entry into the United States was never communicated to the border, aviation, or other members of the intelligence community until August 24, 2001.

This study provides an historical perspective on watchlisting since 9/11 as it relates to the border and aviation communities, clarify how watchlisting works, and provide findings of facts and recommendations to solve remaining issues. The goal is to help improve watchlisting to make it accurate, efficient, and thorough for the right customers in real time.

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Immigration