Government watchlist has up to 700,000 names

10:25 PM, Sep 25, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Only on WUSA9, a look behind the scenes at our nation's Terrorist Screening Center, the TSC. Created after September 11th, it's designed to prevent attacks against Americans anywhere in the world. 

"Can't happen again," said TSC Director Christopher Piehota.

Outside the Terrorist Screening Center stands a stark reminder of why it exists. A trident recovered from the devastation of the World Trade Center.

"They were better than us at one point. We had to change," he said.

The TSC keeps the government's Terrorist Watchlist-a single database of as many as 700-thousand known or suspected terrorists worldwide.

"We are safer now than we have been, however, the threat remains persistent," said Piehota.

The TSC ensures that every government agency is using the same terrorist watchlist. That includes airport screeners, embassies issuing visas overseas, and state and local law enforcement.

"There are still those who would do us harm, both within the United States and outside the United States," he said.

The operations center is a bridge between the law enforcement and intelligence communities. Analysts here help police and others identify whether someone is a suspected terrorist. And throughout the building, clear signs that their work is important.

"The artifacts are a continual reminder of the different types of threat that exist," said Piehota.

A steel column from the North Tower of the World Trade Center revealing the precise point of impact of American Airlines Flight 11. Left behind after the Oklahoma City bombing... keys, a shoe and toys from the on-site daycare. From the suicide bomb attack on the USS Cole, a smoke-stained American flag and a life ring. And from Atlanta's Centennial Park, the phone where an anonymous caller alerted police that a bomb would go off... a call that came too late.

"10 years later, the TSC is better than it's ever been. And ten years from now, it will be better than today," he said.

The Terrorist Screening Center may be best known for its no-fly list. In fact, the Director says most people think they're on it when they simply have a rough day at the airport!  Untrue, he says. Only 7% of the overall database is part of the no-fly list. Less than 2% are US citizens or legal residents.

Written by Andrea McCarren


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