“So the real challenge here is going to be for the United States to work very closely with our counterparts in Europe to make sure that these watch lists are shared, that we’re working together to make sure that these individuals are being tracked when they try to come back to the various countries, and that we work together operationally to be able to go after them once that happens,” Panetta said. “So there’s room for a great deal of improvement here in order to make sure that we’re at the top of our game in terms of trying to protect our country.”
The United States created a consolidated terrorist watch list in 2003. It includes a database of identifying information about those known or suspected of being involved in terrorist activity. That is relevant to the Paris attack because two brothers accused of carrying it out were already on the U.S. no-fly list. The older brother, Said Kouachi, 34, visited Yemen in 2011 and met with a group led by American-born terrorist suspect Anwar al-Awlaki, a senior Yemeni security official said. The younger brother, Chérif Kouachi, 32, had served 18 months in prison for recruiting militants to fight the United States in Iraq.
The brothers are accused of walking into the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and opening fire on Jan. 7, killing 12 people. They later died in a firefight with police, authorities said.
U.S. officials have previously raised concerns about more than 3,000 European citizens, including at least 1,000 from France, who have moved to Syria to fight with the Islamic State and other militant groups. Some have already returned, and it is not clear whether any of them pose a threat.