|Dean of the U.S. House|
John Conyers, Jr.
“Since 2003, the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center helps to identify those individuals known or reasonably suspected of being involved in terrorist activity by integrating information collected from law enforcement, homeland security, and intelligence communities.
“This information is then entered into the Database in order to populate various screening systems used by the U.S. government. The result is a sophisticated watchlist and screening system that has undoubtedly saved lives.
“Despite the diligent work of the Screening Center and the many dedicated individuals who make the screening database possible, this system is not flawless. Past incidents, such as the 2009 Christmas Day attempt attack by the ‘underwear bomber’ on a Northwest Airlines flight, put a spotlight on potential gaps in the system.
“In response, significant improvements have been made to the Database and audits by the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General have revealed movement in the right direction.
“Despite these regular audits, no independent review has been conducted of the changes to the watchlist and screening progress.
“To the extent additional improvements are necessary, or new weaknesses have emerged, such an independent review could serve to make us all safer.
“H.R. 4240 addresses this precise issue by directing the U.S. Government Accountability Office to conduct an independent review of the operation and administration of the Terrorist Screening Database and subsets of the Database.
“This review will assess whether past weaknesses have been eliminated, and the extent to which existing vulnerabilities may be addressed or mitigated through additional changes.
“H.R. 4240 requires the GAO to complete and submit the results of the study to this Committee and our counterpart in the Senate not later than 18 months after the bill's enactment.
“In closing, I commend Subcommittee on Crime, Homeland Security, Terrorism, and Investigations Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee for her leadership on this important issue and I am proud to join her and many of my Committee colleagues in co-sponsoring this bipartisan legislation.
“I thank the Chairman for bringing H.R. 4240 before the Committee today and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting it.”