Magazine article Security Management

Deadline Looms for Fixing "No-Fly" Lists

Magazine article Security Management

Deadline Looms for Fixing "No-Fly" Lists

Article excerpt

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOME-LAND SECURITY (DHS) has just weeks left

to devise a plan for clearing individuals whose names coincidentally match or resemble those on its Transportation Security Administration's "no-fly" list.

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As of late last year more than 35,000 air travelers had applied to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for redress, claiming that their names were placed on the list in error, or that they had been held at an airport because of a coincidental match.

Those held because of confusion over the "no-fly" list include U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), and Catherine Stevens, wife of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AL). Stevens was chairman of the Senate committee that oversees airline industry regulation; his wife was held before boarding a flight because her name resembled the former stage name of singer Yusuf Islam, popularly known as Cat Stevens.

Such errors prompted Congress to add a provision to the current homeland security appropriations law giving Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff six months to "establish revised procedures" for clearing people with coincidental name matches. That deadline arrives April 4.

The TSA maintains three lists for use by airlines in screening passengers: a "no-fly" list; a "selectee" list of people not prohibited from flying but subject to secondary screening before admission to the terminal; and a "cleared" list of individuals with coincidental matches who have applied for, and received, redress for a wrongful "no fly" listing.

Currently, most redresses are granted after a traveler voluntarily provides the TSA with secondary personal information such as a date of birth or Social Security number for verification, according to a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Randolph Hite, director for IT architecture and systems issues at the GAO, says that use of secondary data, up to and including biometrics, could solve the problem of coincidental name matches on watch lists. But he emphasizes that he doesn't favor any one approach.

Others question the effectiveness of lists, regardless of the method used to determine a match. …

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