Friday, April 20, 2007

Been Stopped At The Airport Lately? put out an interesting article entitled: How To Get Off A Government Watch List

The article gives you some clues as to how you might determine if you are on a watch list and then what you might do to get off that list. It states:
Most likely, if you are being singled out at the airport for extra scrutiny, or your credit report says you might match a Treasury list, you are the victim of a bad matching algorithm or a vague watch-list entry for some other person.

For instance, men named Robert Johnson across the country have been logging extra hours at airports because there's no way for the airlines to know, without an I.D. check, which Robert Johnson is the one the government is looking for.
Some of the clues which might suggest you are on a watch list would be:
1. The repeated inability to print out a boarding pass at home or through a kiosk;
2. Being pulled aside repeatedly for extra questioning and scrutiny of your luggage;
3. Not being able to open a bank account or get a mortgage, despite fine credit.

Sometimes at the airport if you get an "SSSS" on your boarding pass, you might just have been elected for a random screening, because if you paid cash or bought a one-way ticket that might be a tip-off to authorities, because most people use a credit card or purchase a round-trip fare.

If you find yourself a victim of wrongly being placed on a watch list, then you need to figure out how that happened. It's probably just as miserable an experience as having your identity stolen.

If your problem is travel-related, then you can try the Department of Homeland Security's new online redress system, called the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program. They ask you to fill out a form and provide some documentation.

If DHS determines that your name is matching incorrectly to a watch-list entry, (like if your last name also happens to be Amadinejad), it may add you to a "white list" that gets you through airport security without the extra scrutiny.

If you're attempting to get off of one of the secret government watch lists that you have purposely been placed on, then that can only be done by the agency that put you on the list in the first place. The Feds say you have to find the agency that nominated you to the list, and then appeal through that agency's ombudsman, privacy officer or Inspector General. DHS may forward your complaint to the Terrorist Screening Center, which runs the master watch list, but apparently the department won't tell you which agency blacklisted you. The Terrorist Screening Center maintains the master "unified terrorist watch list" (and you can't examine it), but says it is "only the keeper", not the creator, of the list. Nevertheless, in 2005 the center removed 31 entries, based on complaints forwarded to it by watch-list-using agencies, according to a recent Congressional report.

Wired's article goes on to say this:
DHS spokesman Darrin Kayser says that this current system, which is new, demonstrates the government's determination to stop inconveniencing Americans.

"The program exhibits our commitment to an efficient and safe travel experience by offering a seamless redress policy that differentiates between legitimate travelers and those who wish to do us harm," Kayser said.
You should also get a copy of your latest credit report. You are entitled to a free copy from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year. You should look to see if there is an Office of Foreign Assets Control alert on your report. If there is, and you're not actually on the list -- which is public -- contact the credit bureau, the Fair Trade Commission, advocacy groups and the media. There's no clear legal recourse, but you can work to get yourself off those lists and give those companies more than a piece of your mind (if you have one left after this type of ordeal).

Treasury Department spokeswoman Molly Millerwise says individuals on the OFAC list can challenge the designation, and that OFAC offers detailed guidance on how companies can comply with the list. She said:
"OFAC has and will continue to work with credit bureaus and reporting agencies to help them ensure the accuracy of their reporting on the OFAC list. We're actively thinking about ways to help them improve their processes."
Well these are the hoops we now have to jump through ... all in the name of homeland security.

Perhaps we should change some of our traditional sayings that wish others good fortune. For example:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
And may your name never appear on a government watch list.