30,000 Americans mistakenly matched to watch list

Since last November, about 30,000 airline passengers were mistakenly matched against federal terrorist watch lists, according to Jim Kennedy, director of the Transportation Security Administration’s redress office.

Kennedy said that travelers have had to ask the TSA to clear their identities from watch lists by submitting a “Passenger Identity Verification Form” and three notarized copies of identification documents. On average, he said, it takes officials 45 to 60 days to evaluate the request and make any necessary changes.

Travelers have been instructed to file the forms only after experiencing “repeated” travel delays, he said, because additional screening can occur for multiple reasons, including fitting a certain profile, flying on a one-way ticket or being selected randomly by a computer.

Of the 30,000 people who said they were mistakenly matched to names on the list, none ever had been kept from boarding an airplane, Kennedy said. Their names appeared only on a “selectee list,” where members are singled out for additional screening. Names on the “no-fly” list, however, are unilaterally barred from flying. The office said it hasn’t been informed of any cases where people have disputed matches with names on the no-fly list.

After submitting their notarized forms and identifications, and waiting for evaluations, the vast majority of the people mistakenly matched to names on the watch list have now been added to a “clearance” list. That doesn’t mean their names are erased from the watch list. In fact, travelers who go through the paperwork are told, Kennedy said, that “it will not quote ‘remove’ you from the list because the person we’re still looking for is out there.”

Instead, their names are put on the separate clearance list, which means they typically can’t check in for flights at an unmanned kiosk and must approach the ticket counter to explain their situation and have an airline employee match their name to the clearance list. — News.com

I’m aware of one case of someone mistakenly matched to the no-fly list. There are probably others.

Oh, wait, we aren’t done yet. This is all leading up to the TSA’s Secure Flight program, where the government claims this sort of error won’t happen. Yeah, right.

Part of the reason government officials are clamoring for Secure Flight is that it is “designed to minimize the number of instances where people are misidentified as potential terrorist threats,” Kennedy said, though he didn’t elaborate on the reasons for that claim. — Ibid.

I don’t believe this for a minute.

Bruce Schneier, who served on a working group which evaluated Secure Flight, said, “When are we finally going to admit that the DHS is incompetent at this?”

Update December 8: The TSA has been calling bloggers and news agencies when it isn’t absolutely happy with the coverage it gets on this issue. Strangely, I haven’t received a call, even though two phone numbers to reach me are elsewhere on this site and easily found.

One thought on “30,000 Americans mistakenly matched to watch list

  • January 8, 2007 at 4:45 am

    Ha, the TSA has changed the first like. Conspiracy!

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