NEWS

Bill to Clear Mistaken Names on Terrorism Watch List Passes House

By Matthew Harwood

A bill that would create an appeal and redress process for individuals whose names have wrongly appeared on the government's terrorism watch list overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives yesterday.

“It is important to keep in mind that the watch list is only as good as the information on it,” said House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS).

According to CQ.com (subscription only):

The bill would require the Homeland Security secretary to establish a “timely and fair” process of appeal and redress for people wrongly delayed or prevented from boarding a flight, among other things, because of an erroneous match with a terrorist watch list.

In addition, the bill would task the Homeland Security secretary with creating an Office of Appeals and Redress and maintain a “comprehensive cleared list” of people who have been inappropriately included on terror watch lists or databases.

The bill was a bi-partisan success, passing the House by 413 votes to three.

The terrorism watch list has been roundly criticized for years. Representative John Lewis (D-GA) routinely criticized the list time and again after his name continued to pop up on it. The TSA blamed the mistake on airlines which confused the "no-fly" list with a "cleared" list, which means the individual is safe to fly.

He isn't the only member of Congress whose name has appeared on the list, according to Security Management Assistant Editor Joe Straw.

In past years lawmakers including Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) ... and Catherine Stevens, wife of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), were held at airport check-in because their names appeared on watch lists. Catherine Stevens was flagged due to confusion with pop star Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens.

Civil libertarians, like the American Civil Liberties Union, also criticize the list, which they argue is over 1 million names long, ineffective, and casts undue suspicion on innocent travelers.

Read H.R. 559, the "FAST Redress Act of 2009", here.

 

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