Terrorist Screening Center

The Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) keeps the American people safe by sharing terrorism-related information across the U.S. government and with other law enforcement agencies.  

Before the 9/11 attacks, there were several different terrorism watchlists, making it difficult to share information. The TSC consolidated that into one federal terrorism watchlist. This watchlist has information on people reasonably suspected to be involved in terrorism (or related activities).  

Examples of information included in the watchlist include:  

  • Names
  • Dates of birth
  • Fingerprints

Most people on the terrorism watchlist are not Americans, and they have no known connection to the U.S. For security reasons, the TSC does not confirm anyone’s status on the watchlist.  

Stock image depicting a leather suitcase, globe, and open passport with multiple stamps.

Privacy and Civil Liberties: Nominations 

The TSC works to protect privacy and civil liberties at all steps in the watchlisting process. To add a person to the watchlist, specific intelligence-related criteria must be met.

Only government agencies can nominate someone to the terrorism watchlist. You cannot nominate someone you know.

No one can be added to the watchlist based on:

  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Beliefs or activities protected by the First Amendment
  • Guesses or hunches

Privacy and Civil Liberties: Oversight 

Internal and external auditors regularly review the TSC’s work to ensure all laws and policies are being followed and that the information on the watchlist is accurate.

Within the TSC, attorneys and privacy personnel constantly review the TSC’s efforts.

Externally, several offices oversee the TSC's work, including:

  • Offices of Inspectors General
  • Government Accountability Office
  • Congress
  • Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board

The Watchlist and Air Travel 

If you are subject to additional screening at the airport, this does not mean you are on the watchlist.

In fact, the vast majority of people who have disputed travel and appeal to the Department of Homeland Security’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program are not on the terrorist watchlist.

Most people on the terrorist watchlist are still able to fly within the U.S. A very small subset of people on this list are on the “No Fly” list.

What the Terrorism Watchlist Is Used For 

The watchlist is used by government agencies with a national security mission, for reasons like:

  • Visa and passport screening (Department of State)
  • International travel into the U.S. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
  • Air passenger screening (Transportation Security Administration)
  • Immigration screening (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services)
  • Access to U.S. military bases (Department of Defense)
  • FBI investigations
  • Support for federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement

Additionally, some information from the watchlist is exported to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center

Learn more: Overview of the U.S. Government's Terrorist Watchlisting Process and Procedures (as of April 2024)

What the Terrorism Watchlist Is Not Used For 

Some people who are denied certain services, like a loan or credit decision, may be told they are on a “watchlist.” If you are told this, this does not mean you are on the U.S. government’s terrorist watchlist.

The terrorism watchlist is never used to make decisions on financial matters, such as:

  • Loan/credit decisions
  • Money transfers
  • Unemployment benefits

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