TSA now handling watch list checks for all domestic flights

DHS says Secure Flight program being used for all flights inside of United States

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has finished taking over from airlines the responsibility of screening all passengers that are flying inside the United States against the government’s terrorist watch lists, as part of a multi-phase information technology program named Secure Flight.

Under the program, airlines must gather a passenger's full name, date of birth and gender when fliers make an flight reservation. TSA then uses that information to help determine if the passenger matches an entry on the no-fly or selectee watch lists.

By the end of this year the government expects all international carriers with direct flight to the United States to also begin using Secure Flight.

In a statement released June 7, the Homeland Security Department, TSA’s parent agency, billed the agency’s take over of watch list screening for U.S. domestic flights as a “major aviation security milestone.”

In the absence of Secure Flight, airlines have been responsible for checking passengers against watch lists. DHS says that Secure Flight improves security and helps prevent the misidentification of passengers with names similar to those in the government’s name-based terrorist watch lists.

Related stories

Secure Flight cited as fix for lag in 'no-fly list' update

TSA launches Secure Flight for passengers

Officials have faced increased pressure to get Secure Flight in place after an unsuccessful car bombing attempt in New York City’s Times Square last month.

Faisal Shahzad, who allegedly attempted to set off the bomb, was reportedly added to the no-fly list after that incident. However, Shahzad was allowed to board an aircraft before authorities arrested him because the airline involved apparently didn’t check Shahzad against an update to the list when he purchased a ticket at the last minute. Since that incident, TSA has required airlines to check for updates to the no-fly list more frequently.

“We will not have this problem anymore” when Secure Flight is fully in place, Caryn Wagner, DHS’ undersecretary for intelligence and analysis, told a House panel last month.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Mon, Jul 5, 2010 United States

How do you get OFF of the watch list? Apparently my husband is on the list and we encountered seating delays over the past weekend

Fri, Jul 2, 2010

no need for name or information, everytime you log in, the government has its bird dogs watch everything you do..such an oppresive nation in USA now..i am ashamed of USA..i served my country for 6 years in the US ARMY, when it really was the right thing to do..now look at what the government does to us all..the government walks on us with no care or consideration now..shame on Washington D.C.............

Tue, Jun 15, 2010 AJ Pensacola

Unfortunately the airlines have not modified their online airline reservation screens to obtain the flier's date of birth and gender. Neither have the travel companies such as Travelocity. I suspect their databases have not been modified to store this date yet either.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group