Saturday, August 23, 2008

Terrorist watch list false positives have real consequences to real people

Really? An honorably-discharged American soldier is on the Terrorist watch list? Seems like there is definitely some cruft in the list of 400,000 - 1MM names. Here is a personal story of how this kind of system has consequences somewhat as bad as what the terrorists could hope to accomplish themselves--loss of freedom and unjust treatment.

Name on government watch list threatens pilot's career -
In April, Colgan informed Scherfen that he was on a government list and would be suspended from his job. He was told he faced termination on September 1 unless he was able to clear his name.

But Scherfen, of Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania, has been unable to do so and said he fears that it could mean he has no future as a pilot.

"My entire career depends on me getting off this list," he said. "I probably won't be able to get a job anywhere else in the world having this mark that I'm on this list."

Witold Walczak, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney representing Scherfen and his wife in a lawsuit, calls the government actions "unfair" and "unjust."
Bruce Schneier recently pointed out how absurd this list is, especially when it is publically known how many times the _actual_ people on the list were encountered -- but nothing happened to them. If they are so dangerous, why were they not detained?

Schneier on Security: Congratulations to our Millionth Terrorist!
Screening and law enforcement agencies encountered the actual people on the watch list (not false matches) more than 53,000 times from December 2003 to May 2007, according to a Government Accountability Office report last fall.

Okay, so I have a question. How many of those 53,000 were arrested? Of those who were not, why not? How many have we taken off the list after we've investigated them?

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