The FBI has publicly acknowledged for the first time that it is considering preventing those who attacked the US Capitol last week from boarding planes by adding them to the federal no-fly list.
FBI Washington Field Office Assistant Director in Charge Steven D’Antuono said Tuesday that the bureau would consider adding rioters to the no-fly list, which is maintained by the bureau and administered by the Transportation Security Administration.
“As for the no-fly list, we look at all tools and techniques that we possibly can use within the FBI and that’s something we are actively looking at,” D’Antuono said in response to a question from CNN’s Evan Pérez.
On Tuesday, congressional leaders intensified calls to keep rioters off planes after they said they remained mostly in the dark from the agencies that oversee the list.
“We cannot allow these same insurrectionists to get on a plane and cause more violence, and more damage,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference.
The top Democrat and Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee also told TSA Administrator David Pekoske in a letter they were concerned “little is being done to disrupt the travel of terrorists who just attacked the seat of the U.S. Government and wish to do so again.”
House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, and ranking Republican member John Katko wrote they were concerned that “many of the same groups that planned and carried out Wednesday’s attack intend to return to Washington, DC, to cause further disruption and violence in the coming days, including at the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.”
The no-fly list is derived from the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database, known as the TSDB or terrorist watch list. The FBI and other intelligence services can nominate individuals for the list or the selectee list, which designates an individual as the subject of additional airport security screening.
Highly redacted federal reports suggest the overall watchlist is larger than number of people on the no-fly and selectee lists. Much of how the lists work, including what qualifies a person for inclusion and how many people are listed, is classified as sensitive security information.
When a person checks in for a flight, his or her reservation information is checked against the TSA’s Secure Flight database, which includes determining whether the traveler is on the no-fly list or selectee list.
The Secure Flight system then gives the airline the information needed to generate a boarding pass or deny the passenger – including, for example, if a passenger qualifies for the TSA PreCheck expedited screening program. It also checks if a passenger’s identity is on the “do not board list” kept by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and TSA. This list is used to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.
The no-fly list began in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, prior to the creation of TSA, when the FBI provided the Federal Aviation Administration a list of 125 people who should not be allowed on planes.
This story has been updated with additional details.