About 30,000 airline passengers have discovered since last November that their names were mistakenly matched with those appearing on federal watch lists, a transportation security official said Tuesday.
Jim Kennedy, director of the Transportation Security Administration’s redress office, revealed the errors at a quarterly meeting convened here by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee.
The 30,000 are on the “selectee” list, which means they aren’t barred from flying; instead, they are continually singled out for additional screening. If you’re one of the unlucky 30,000, what do you do? Can you rectify the situation? Sort of — and only after a lot of effort:
Kennedy said that travelers have had to ask the TSA to clear their identities from watch lists by submitting a “Passenger Identity Verification Form” and three notarized copies of identification documents. On average, he said, it takes officials 45 to 60 days to evaluate the request and make any necessary changes. . . .
Sounds like fun . . . and getting notarized copies isn’t cheap either. But you’re cleared then, right? Not so fast:
After submitting their notarized forms and identifications, and waiting for evaluations, the vast majority of the people mistakenly matched to names on the watch list have now been added to a “clearance” list. That doesn’t mean their names are erased from the watch list. In fact, travelers who go through the paperwork are told, Kennedy said, that “it will not quote ‘remove’ you from the list because the person we’re still looking for is out there.”
Instead, their names are put on the separate clearance list, which means they typically can’t check in for flights at an unmanned kiosk and must approach the ticket counter to explain their situation and have an airline employee match their name to the clearance list.
That’s nice. So 30,000 people, even after being “cleared,” will still never be able to check in at the kiosk and instead have to wait on long lines at the regular check-in where they must then go through a process to confirm their “clearance” each and every time they fly. Lucky them.
They must feel like Sisyphus, who according to the Greek legend, had to push a stone up a hill, which would promptly fall back down — a process that would repeat for eternity.
Actually, perhaps it is most apt to quote from Franz Kafka’s The Trial:
When he has the document asserting the defendant’s innocence, guaranteed by a number of other judges, the judge can acquit you without any worries, and although there are still several formalities to be gone through there’s no doubt that that’s what he’ll do as a favor to me and several other acquaintances. You, however, walk out the court and you’re free.” “So, then I’ll be free,” said K., hesitantly. “That’s right,” said the painter, “but only apparently free or, to put it a better way, temporarily free, as the most junior judges, the ones I know, they don’t have the right to give the final acquittal. Only the highest judge can do that, in the court that’s quite out of reach for you, for me and for all of us. . . . . If there’s an absolute acquittal all proceedings should stop, everything disappears from the process, not just the indictment but the trial and even the acquittal disappears, everything just disappears. With an apparent acquittal it’s different. When that happens, nothing has changed except that the case for your innocence, for your acquittal and the grounds for the acquittal have been made stronger. Apart from that, proceedings go on as before. . . . It’s impossible to know exactly what’s happening while this is going on. . . . .”
Kafka, it seems, was well familiar with the TSA.
Hat tip: Bruce Schneier
Originally posted at Concurring Opinions
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This post was authored by Professor Daniel J. Solove, who through TeachPrivacy develops computer-based privacy training, data security training, HIPAA training, and many other forms of awareness training on privacy and security topics. Professor Solove also posts at his blog at LinkedIn. His blog has more than 1 million followers.