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Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 16, 2003

Contact: 202-282-8010


Today, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, Secretary of State Colin Powell, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet announced the creation of the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) to consolidate terrorist watchlists and provide 24/7 operational support for thousands of Federal screeners across the country and around the world. The TSC will ensure that America's government screeners are working from the same unified set of anti-terrorist information HBC comprehensive anti-terrorist list when a suspected terrorist is screened or stopped anywhere in the Federal system.

* Better Informed: The TSC will allow federal, state, and local officials to make better-informed decisions to protect the United States from terrorist attacks. For example, better access to information will make it easier for a consular officer posted in another country to determine whether to grant a visa, or an immigration official at a U.S. airport to decide whether a person is eligible to enter the United States.

* Building Capabilities: Creation of the TSC marks another significant step forward in the President's strategy to protect America's communities and families by detecting, disrupting, and disabling terrorist threats. The TSC builds on improvements to U.S. watchlist capabilities that began in 2001, immediately following the September 11 attacks, including, most recently, the President's creation of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC).

* Consolidating Information: The TSC will receive the vast majority of its information about known or suspected terrorists from the TTIC after TTIC has assembled and analyzed that information from a wide range of sources. In addition, the FBI will provide the TSC with information about purely domestic terrorism, i.e., having no connection to international terrorist activities. The TSC will consolidate this information into an unclassified terrorist screening database and make the database accessible to queries for federal, state, and local agencies for a variety of screening purposes.

* The TSC, through the participation of the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, and Intelligence Community representatives, will determine which information in the Database will be available for which types of screening.

* For example, The Attorney General's and the Secretary of Homeland Security's representatives to the TSC will decide which persons to include in those records that may be queried directly by law enforcement officials through the NCIC database. Similarly, the State Department representative, consulting with the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Intelligence Community representatives, will determine which information may be screened by foreign governments.

* Safeguarding Information: The TSC will not independently collect any information on U.S. citizens. In fact, the TSC does not collect information at all - it only receives information provided by the TTIC and the FBI. The TTIC will provide to the TSC all appropriate and necessary information connected to international terrorism about any individuals - U.S. citizens or not - that TTIC partner agencies hold pursuant to their own authorities and the FBI will provide to the TSC appropriate and necessary information concerning domestic terrorism, regardless of whether it involves U.S. citizens. If the TSC receives information on U.S. citizens connected with terrorism, its use of that information is subject to the same legal limitations to which it would be subject if the information were not included in the Database. Purely domestic terrorism information will not go through TTIC, but will be placed directly into the TSC Database by the FBI. The Attorney General has been directed to implement procedures and safeguards with respect to information about U.S. persons, in coordination with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of Central Intelligence.

* The creation of the TSC does not provide any new law enforcement or collection powers to any government official; it simply consolidates information that law enforcement, the Intelligence Community, the State Department, and others already possess and makes it accessible for query to those who need it - federal security screeners, State and local law enforcement officers, and others. The TSC will have no independent authority to conduct intelligence collection or other operations.

* All information the TSC maintains will have been collected in accordance with existing law, and TSC officials will continue to be bound by any applicable laws and constitutional requirements that restrict the use of that information and that protect privacy interests and other liberties.

* Information technology and information handling procedures will be designed to comply with constitutional and other legal requirements, and participants will continue to be answerable both to internal agency oversight and congressional oversight.

* Supporting the Mission: The Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") will administer the TSC. The Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, and others will coordinate with and assign operational and staff support to the TSC.

* The FBI is the appropriate administrator of the TSC's start-up operations because of the Bureau's technical experience in watchlist integration. Although the FBI will administer the TSC, the TSC will be an interagency effort. As noted, the Departments of Homeland Security and State and others will coordinate with and assign operational and staff support to the TSC. The Principal Deputy Director of the TSC will be a Department of Homeland Security official. In addition to the Department of Justice, the Department of State, and the Department of Homeland Security, the Intelligence Community and other federal agencies will assign representatives to the TSC. Each of these agencies will be responsible for specific aspects of the TSC's work.

The TSC is being phased in via a coordinated interagency effort administered by the FBI and will be operational by December 1, 2003.