Travellers struggle with Uncle Sam's loopy terror lists: DNA
New York: Does the security drill at US airports really make you wonder? Chances are high that if you are routinely subjected to extra airport security or unable to print boarding passes for airline flights at US airport kiosks then your name has somehow got mixed up with those on Uncle Sam's bulging terrorist watch lists.
Unbelievably, even Senator Edward Kennedy has been tagged for extra screening along with toddlers and military veterans with the same names as suspected terrorists on the watch list. Civil liberties advocates say the bulging watch lists spawn "faster than rabbits."
Ann Davis, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), told DNA the agency is sensitive to the problems travellers face when they are "misidentified." The Terrorist Screening Database now has over 700,000 names and includes many common Indian and South Asian names.
"Misidentified travellers from anywhere in the world can file a complaint with us. It is an annoyance. We are very sensitive to the problems they face. Once we receive a complaint, we try to resolve the case as quickly as possible," Davis told DNA.
According to the agency, a foreign traveller who feels targeted can file an online complaint on TSA's redressal programme at www.dhs.gov/trip or mail a complaint to the agency's office.
But media reports point out that the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program better known as TRIP, has a crushing backlog of appeals. The Homeland Security Department says it gets 2,000 requests a month from people who want to have their names cleared. The average processing time is 40 days.
But even Indians placed in a cleared list complain they still get security pat-downs and a barrage of questions because airline reservation systems seem to be working with old information.
To get rid of glitches, TSA is developing a more sophisticated screening system called "Secure Flight" that should cut down on the number of people mistakenly tagged for extra security. The new system will include more personal data like birthdates and not rely so heavily on names.