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Watch Lists – Easy to Get On, Impossible to Get Off

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October 3, 2011

The New York Times had a great editorial in its Sunday paper that outlined the continuing issues with terror watch lists.

As if traveling weren’t a hassle already (now even more so with invasive body scanners), imagine if your name were placed on a terrorist watch list. The lists are secret so the only way of knowing would be to find out when, perhaps, you’re already late to your flight and suddenly pulled out of line for extra screening — or even denied boarding altogether. And there are no solid and trustworthy mechanisms to remedy mistaken identification and absolutely no way to remove your name from the list; the so-called “redress” process involved complaining to a government entity without authority to fix the problem and hoping that a faceless bureaucrat will correct a mistake or change his mind.

Following up on a story by Times reporter Charlie Savage, the editorial says about the watch lists:

There are longstanding concerns about implementation and accuracy, including the omission of names from the list that properly belong there. There also has been a persistent problem of flagging the wrong people — including an 8-year-old and at least one senator — who then have serious trouble getting their names removed.

Ten years after 9/11, it seems that our rights are continuing to take a backseat to deeply flawed counterterrorism techniques. It’s past time that Congress use its power to regulate these watch lists that are as ineffective as they are imprecise. If you think your rights have been violated at the airport, let us know.

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