Our Anti-Terrorism Success Story
|Washington, D.C. September 05, 2007|
An abbreviated version of this letter, edited to comport with word limitations, was sent to the Washington Post on September 5, 2007.
The August 25th Washington Post article "Terror Suspect List Yields Few Arrests" inaccurately described the work of the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), one of the most significant success stories in the U.S. Government's fight against terrorism. The TSC addressed pre-September 11th vulnerabilities by consolidating terrorist identity information into a single database and making that information available to federal, state, and local law enforcement and intelligence community authorities. Every day, use of TSC's watchlist results in known and suspected terrorists being denied entry into this country, refused boarding on commercial flights, or identified by state and local law enforcement officers during routine stops. Because of the unified efforts of the TSC and its partner agencies, Americans are significantly safer.
The article and some of those quoted suggest that the efficacy of the TSC can be measured by the number of arrests made during watchlist encounters. This fundamentally misperceives the role of the TSC in disrupting terrorist activity. Information about a watchlisted person that does not meet the legal standard for an arrest often allows the U.S. Government to take other critical action that thwarts terrorist activity and goals or protects the public safety. A known or suspected terrorist can still properly be denied a visa or admission to the country, a license to drive hazardous materials, or refused boarding on a plane.
Unfortunately, I am not blessed with our detractors' foresight, which apparently would allow them to identify and deflect only those who actually will try to kill us. The dedicated people at the TSC and our partner agencies struggle to make the best decisions we can to determine who is a potential threat to those we have pledged to protect. And we do our best to minimize inconvenience where possible. We remember the promise that we made to each other on September 12, 2001: that never again would we allow the intelligence gaps that our enemies exploited to victimize us. We are keeping that promise; and we are keeping America safe.
Leonard C. Boyle
U.S. Terrorist Screening Center