For wealthy Nigerian businessman Gilbert Chagoury and others like him, a place on the U.S. government's recently expanded terrorist no-fly list has not turned out to be a major impediment to a jet-setting lifestyle.
That's because a loophole in the Transportation Security Administration's security regulations does not require any screening for those flying domestically on a privately-owned aircraft, no matter how large.
Both TSA officials and FBI Terrorist Screening Center director Timothy Healy confirmed to ABC News last week that the effort to keep U.S. airspace off-limits to terror suspects has not included vetting the passengers and pilots on large private jets such as the one owned by Chagoury, which he has used to shuttle between Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York and Europe.
Greg Soule, a TSA spokesman, said the agency has been working for some time on a fix to toughen the restrictions for non-commercial jets.
"We're working with industry to strengthen security for private planes that have previously gone unregulated," Soule said.
Despite the loophole, Chagoury's movements did not totally escape notice. In January, the wealthy philanthropist, who has been a significant financial supporter of former President Bill Clinton, was stopped from boarding his private jet as it was undergoing repairs at Teterboro Airport in northern New Jersey, according to a report of the incident provided to ABCNews.com.
The report says that law enforcement authorities discovered Chagoury was a "positive match" to the Gilbert Chagoury on the terrorism no-fly list, based on his date of birth. He was traveling on a British passport, which does not require a U.S. visa to enter the country. The report said Chagoury was also named on a second watch list called TIDE, the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center.
Chagoury's son, Gilbert Jr., confirmed last month that his father was detained by TSA officers at Teterboro. A report of the incident said agents from the FBI and Customs and Border Patrol asked Chagoury, four other passengers and two crew members to wait for several hours before they were permitted to board the jet and depart for Paris.
The brief detention provided the first public indication that Chagoury had been placed on any watch list, and because the government never comments on individual names on the no-fly list, it is unknown whether he remains on either list. Reached Monday, Chagoury's son said that neither he nor his father wished to discuss the matter.
A spokesperson for the Terrorist Screening Center last month declined to comment about Chagoury. The spokesperson did say the list is "fluid" and individuals may be moved up or downgraded at any time based on the current threat environment, but "an individual's social status, financial means, and political affiliations are not considered" in an individual being moved up or down the list.
Well before Chagoury was detained, flight records for his Dassault Falcon show the private aircraft had been making frequent trips both inside and outside the U.S.
Unlike commercial airline passengers, who are screened against the no-fly list both on domestic and international flights, there is no requirement that those on the private aircraft be screened during domestic travel, according to Healy, who heads the Terrorist Screening Center. Healy said that was something the TSA was "working on."