TSA to slash half the names from terror watch lists

Published 22 January 2007

Confusion between singer Cat Stevens and the wife of senator Ted Stevens emblematic of the problem; ongoing problems cause a loss of confidence in DHS procedures; new Secure Flight program may also help; complaints and corrections about DHS databases will now be centralized

It is not easy being Catherine Stevens. Not only is she the wife of Alaska senator Ted Stevens — he of the so-called bridge to nowhere — but her name is unfortunately similar to the given name of rock star Yusef Islam, better known as Cat Stevens. As the latter Stevens has long been listed on America’s terrorist watch lists, the senator’s wife has found herself repeatedly singled out for heightened airport scrutiny (even though everyone agrees that the two are not similar in any way other than their names). Stung by this and other criticism, TSA chief Kip Hawley last week announced that his office would begin a comprehensive review of the watch list. At least half of the names, he said, would likely be eliminated.

With the size of the list estimated at 50,000 to 350,000, this sounds like a tough job, but Hawley hopes that, if coupled to the emergong Secure Flight passenger screening program, it could make a serious difference. For those who continue to feel aggrieved, DHS has an answer for them too: a new program for passengers who feel wronged to try correcting the list using what Michael Chertoff described as “a clearly-defined process” to report problems. (Previously, complaints were lodged with individual airlines, who had their own pricedures for reporting them to DHS.) Beginning 20 February,the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program will serve as a central processing point for all inquiries about Homeland Security agencies’ databases.

-read more in Beverely Lumpkin’s AP report