|Unlikely Terrorists On No-Fly List
Steve Kroft Reports List Includes President Of Bolivia, Dead 9/11 Hijackers
CBS | October 5, 2006
(CBS) 60 Minutes has obtained the secret list used to screen airline passengers for terrorists and discovered it includes names of people not likely to cause terror, including the president of Bolivia, people who are dead and names so common, they are shared by thousands of innocent fliers.
Steve Kroft's investigation, in which an ex-FBI agent who worked on its al-Qaeda task force says the list of 44,000 names is ineffective, will be broadcast this Sunday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
The former FBI agent, Jack Cloonan, knew the list that was hastily assembled after 9/11, would be bungled. "When we heard the name list or no-fly list … the eyes rolled back in my head, because we knew what was going to happen," he says. "They basically did a massive data dump and said, 'Okay, anybody that's got a nexus to terrorism, let's make sure they get on the list,'" he tells Kroft.
The "data dump" of names from the files of several government agencies, including the CIA, fed into the computer compiling the list contained many unlikely terrorists. These include Saddam Hussein, who is under arrest, Nabih Berri, Lebanon's parliamentary speaker, and Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia. It also includes the names of 14 of the 19 dead 9/11 hijackers.
But the names of some of the most dangerous living terrorists or suspects are kept off the list.
The 11 British suspects recently charged with plotting to blow up airliners with liquid explosives were not on it, despite the fact they were under surveillance for more than a year.
The name of David Belfor who now goes by Dawud Sallahuddin, is not on the list, even though he assassinated someone in Washington, D.C., for former Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini. This is because the accuracy of the list meant to uphold security takes a back seat to overarching security needs: it could get into the wrong hands. "The government doesn't want that information outside the government," says Cathy Berrick, director of Homeland Security investigations for the General Accounting Office.
Berrick says Homeland Security would probably agree that leaving such names off the list is a concern. The Transportation Security Administration is trying to fix the list, says Berrick, but after three years and an estimated $144 million, there's "nothing tangible yet," she says.
Even if the list is made more accurate, it won't help thousands of innocent travelers who share a common name on the list and who get detained, sometimes for hours, when they attempt to fly.
Gary Smith, John Williams and Robert Johnson are some of those names. Kroft talked to 12 people with the name Robert Johnson, all of whom are detained almost every time they fly. The detentions can include strip searches and long delays in their travels.
"Well, Robert Johnson will never get off the list," says Donna Bucella, who oversaw the creation of the list and has headed up the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center since 2003. She regrets the trouble they experience, but chalks it up to the price of security in the post-9/11 world. "They're going to be inconvenienced every time … because they do have the name of a person who's a known or suspected terrorist," says Bucella.
Cloonan, when shown a copy of the list from March 2006, tells Kroft, "I did see Osama bin Laden, both with an "O" in the first name and "U" in the second…I was glad to see that. But some of the other names I see here…I just have to scratch my head and say, 'My God, what have we created here?'"