H.R. 4240, No Fly for Foreign Fighters Act

H.R. 4240

No Fly for Foreign Fighters Act

Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee

April 27, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
John Huston

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, April 27, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 4240, the No Fly for Foreign Fighters Act, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 4240 was introduced on December 11, 2015 by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, which ordered the bill reported, as amended, by voice vote on January 12, 2016.

Bill Summary

H.R. 4240 would commission a study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the operation and administration of the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) and report to Congress on its findings. According to the Committee, the study shall report on the extent to which past weaknesses in the operation and administration of the TSDB have been addressed and the extent to which existing vulnerabilities to the United States may be addressed or mitigated through additional changes to the TSDB in order to strengthen America’s security and defenses.[1]


Additionally, the report shall include information on the extent to which:

  • Information is being integrated into the TSDB from all relevant sources across the government in a timely manner;
  • Agencies are able to comply with increased demands for information to improve the TSDB;
  • The TSDB, and relevant subsets of the TSDB, are accessible to agencies, authorities, and other entities, as appropriate;
  • The TSDB is capable of enabling users to identify known or suspected terrorists in the most timely and comprehensive manner possible.

[1] See House Report 114-495, 2-3


The Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) was created in 2003 to create and maintain the US government’s consolidated terrorist watchlist known as the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). The TSDB integrated all existing US government terrorist watchlists in an effort to better provide law enforcement agencies with information to help them respond appropriately during encounters with known or suspected terrorists. The TSC collaborates with members of law enforcement, homeland security, intelligence, and international communities to provide support for US counterterrorism objectives.[1]

Following the attempted bombing of Northwest flight 253 on December 25, 2009, a GAO study exposed certain weaknesses in how the Federal Government nominated individuals to the terrorist watchlist and gaps in how agencies used the list to screen individuals. The GAO specifically recommended in its May 2012 report that the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism establish mechanisms or use existing interagency bodies to routinely assess 1) how the watchlisting guidance has impacted the watchlisting community – including its capacity to submit and process nominations in accordance with provisions in the guidance – and whether any adjustments to agency programs or the guidance are needed; and 2) whether use of the watchlist during agency screening processes is achieving intended results, including whether the overall outcomes and impacts of screening on agency resources and the traveling public are acceptable and manageable.

The GAO stated in its 2012 report that routine, government-wide assessments of the outcomes and impacts of agencies’ watchlist screening or vetting programs could help ensure that these programs are achieving their intended results or identify if revisions are needed. Such assessments could also help identify broader issues that require attention, determine if impacts on agency resources and the traveling public are acceptable, and communicate to key stakeholders how the nation’s investment in the watchlist screening or vetting processes is enhancing security of the nation’s borders, commercial aviation, and other security-related activities.[2]

[1] https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/nsb/tsc/about-the-terrorist-screening-center
[2] See House Report 114-495, 2-3


Based on the cost of similar studies, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the report would cost less than $500,000 over the 2016-2017 period; such spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds. Enacting this bill would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact Jason Grassie with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 3-1555.