[JURIST] The US Government Accountability Office [official website] says that erroneous terror watch lists [FBI FAQ; JURIST news archive] are delaying thousands of travelers moving in and through the United States. A GAO report [PDF] on the lists published last Friday noted:
Although the total number of misidentifications that have occurred as a result of watch-list-related screening conducted by all frontline-screening agencies and airlines is unknown, Terrorist Screening Center data indicate that about half of the tens of thousands of potential matches sent to the center between December 2003 and January 2006 for further research turned out to be misidentifications… [This] total number of misidentified persons may be substantial in absolute terms, [but] it likely represents a small fraction of the hundreds of millions of individuals screened each year.
GAO acknowledged that in some instances "travelers have missed flights."
People with names that computer-driven algorithms match with those found on the watch lists are delayed and questioned by officials, often at border checks and airport check-ins. Requests to be removed from the lists, currently numbering over 30,000, are processed by only one agency, the Transportation Security Administration [official website]. AP has more.
A July study [PDF] by the Department of Homeland Security [official website] suggested that the watch list system was inefficient [JURIST report]. The US Department of Justice reported [JURIST report] last year that the list was missing some names, was based on incomplete and inaccurate information, and mischaracterized the danger posed by nearly 32,000 suspects who are not designated as targets of significant security action.