Almost every government agency has a terrorist watchlist: there's the TSA No Fly list, the OFAC Specially Designated Nationals list, a State Department List, and an FBI list. As these lists grow, so do the number of innocent people flagged as suspected terrorists.
It doesn't take that much to be flagged. All you need to have is a name that is almost like one on a list. What can you do to find out if you are one of those people? And what can you do if you are flagged? Unfortunately, there is still no full recourse for the innocent. But here are some steps you can take.
1. Check Whether Your Name Appears on the OFAC Specially Designated Nationals List
The Office of Foreign Assets Control maintains a specific list of "specially designated nationals," including suspected terrorists, with whom US firms are prohibited from doing business. Credit bureaus, landlords and potential employers have been using them to screen applicants, so make sure you're not on this list.
Check whether your name appears on the OFAC list:
- Go to the OFAC website.
- Select the link for "Specially Designated Nationals" list.
- Use the Search and Find feature to look for your full name.
2. Check Your Credit Reports For OFAC Alerts
Obtain a free copy of your credit report, since OFAC alerts may appear on them. Find out how to order your free credit reports from Annual Report.com.
Even if you don't find an alert, you may be flagged. According to Sinnar: "Despite the fact that the Fair Credit Reporting Act gives consumers the right to see all the information in their credit files, at least one major credit reporting agency reportedly includes OFAC alerts only on credit reports that are sent to businesses...," but not on copies sent to you.If you are flagged, you should contact the credit reporting agency to have your name removed.
3. Use the DHS TRIP Program if You Are Repeatedly Flagged
If you have been repeatedly identified for additional screening, you can file an inquiry to have it corrected in the DHS system. The information you'll need is at the DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP), the central gateway to address traveler mis-identification or related screening problems at US borders or transportation hubs.
Once you determine that you are eligible to file a complaint, proceed to the File a Complaint page and follow Steps 1 - 3.
4. Contact an Attorney, If You are Placed on a No Fly List in Error
The DHS TRIP process is designed to help those who have been delayed or detained in error because their names are like those who are on the list. In a few cases, however, people who are not terrorists have discovered themselves--as themselves--on lists, without the opportunity to figure out why (since the No Fly Lists are not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests). If you are in this rare situation, contact your attorney for further steps.
5. Get Up to Date Information
Non-partisan think tanks and other research organizations have begun making recommendations for keeping watch lists' use limited and fair.
For interesting and clearly written information on what is being and can be done, check out:
6. Vote For Candidates Who Support Watchlist and Civil Rights Safeguards
Make sure your state and federal elected officials support restrictions in the use of watch lists, and support and vote for those who do! Support those who support legislation that protects your rights to privacy and to access information about you being used by the government.