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Highlights

The matching of airline passenger information against terrorist watchlist records (watchlist matching) is a frontline defense against acts of terrorism that target the nation's civil aviation system. In general, passengers identified as matches to the No-Fly list are prohibited from boarding commercial flights, while those matched to the Selectee list are required to undergo additional screening. Historically, airline passenger prescreening against watchlist records has been performed by commercial air carriers. As required by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has developed an advanced passenger prescreening program--known as Secure Flight--to assume from air carriers the function of matching passenger information against terrorist watchlist records. Since fiscal year 2004, TSA has received $358 million in appropriated funds for the development and implementation of Secure Flight, according to program officials. Also, since fiscal year 2004, GAO has been mandated to assess the development and implementation of the Secure Flight program. We have reported on numerous challenges the program has faced, including those related to protecting passenger privacy, completing performance testing, fully defining and testing security requirements, and establishing reliable cost and schedule estimates, among other things. We have made recommendations to address these challenges, and TSA has generally agreed with them and has taken corrective actions.

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