NEWS

TSA's "Cleared List" of Fliers Tops 80,000

By Matthew Harwood

The "cleared list" of fliers on the terrorism watch list has grown to 80,000 names, prompting criticism from civil libertarians that names are added to the watch list too easily, reports USA Today.

The additions to the Transportation Security Administration's(TSA) "cleared list" reflect an influx of requests from people asking to be removed from the watch list. The watch list database has expanded 32% since 2007, to more than 1 million entries. The cleared list has grown because about 99% of the fliers seeking to be removed from the watch list were never on it, according to the Department of Homeland Security, which runs the TSA.

Most believed they were on the watch list after encountering screening problems at airports, often because they were mistaken for someone on the watch list, says Jim Kennedy, who heads the program that handles requests to get off the watch list.

Critics from American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committees and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) say the problem resides in the nomination process, whereby law enforcement and intelligence agencies decide whether a certain name deserves to be added to the list based on "reasonable suspicion" standards. 

"No one wants to be the person who was too cautious about nominating names … so every name ends up on the list when only a handful should be," Tim Sparapani, a lawyer for the ACLU, told USA Today.

Chad Kolton, a spokesman for the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, told the paper that the center recently conducted data-quality reviews and said the information is accurate because it "doesn't help anyone to have information in there that's outdated or inaccurate."

The terrorism watch list used by TSA has long been a sore spot for lawmakers. Legislation that has already passed the House of Representatives would create a redress system as well as a "comprehensive cleared list" that must be used by any agency that uses the terrorism watch list. It would combine the list used by the TSA with any similar list used by other agencies, like Customs and Border Protection.

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