Tuesday, 2 November 2004
New York Times on "Getting off a watch list"
Christopher Elliott reports today in the business section of the New York Times that, Getting Off a Security Watch List Is the Hard Part (free registration and cookie acceptance required):
Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 2 November 2004, 09:42 ( 9:42 AM) | TrackBack (0)
There is no way to find out if you are on the list until you check in for a flight. Worse, there may be no way off. Passengers can fill out a disparity claim with the [USA Transportation Security Administration (TSA)] ombudsman's office, which acts as an intermediary between passengers like Mr. Smith and the security agency. "If it's determined that you're not the individual that is wanted for further questioning, then the airlines will receive notification informing them that the specific individual is not to be detained," a T.S.A. spokeswoman, Lauren Stover, said.
But that does not mean they are off the watch list. The agency's Office of Intelligence, which currently maintains the watch list, reports that in September, 680 people filed so-called disparity claims indicating that their names had been mistaken for individuals wanted by the government for questioning. Of those, the government had cleared 250 people by October.
Detractors also maintain that the secrecy shrouding the watch list is pointless. "How do you get on the list?" asked Edward Hasbrouck, a privacy advocate in San Francisco. "Nobody knows. How do you get off the list? Nobody knows."
Ms. Stover of the security administration said passengers were added to the secondary list if there was "a pattern in something they have done in the past that merits future scrutiny," and were put on the no-fly list only if they were wanted "for activities that may be terrorist-related or pose a threat to national security." She declined to elaborate.
But Mr. Hasbrouck said even if the government could successfully argue for keeping its reasons secret -- and he doubted it could -- there were still no legal safeguards to prevent innocent passengers from being erroneously added to the watch list.
"The model is flawed," he said. "People should only be placed on the list based on an order from a court of competent jurisdiction following an adversarial evidentiary hearing. The burden of proof should be on the government to show that someone is dangerous, not the other way around."