The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Matthew Allee, (202) 675-2312,

Bloated and Ineffective Watch Lists Should be Scrapped

ACLU calls for common sense approach to security that respects the innocence of travelers


the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security and
Infrastructure Protection holds a hearing today on cleaning up the
watch lists, the American Civil Liberties Union calls for congressional
action to scrap the current approach to airline security in favor of
systems that are far more effective, and, at the same time, protect
innocent Americans from the immeasurable hassles and frustration of
being swept up erroneously by the watch lists. Currently, the Terrorist
Screening Center (TSC) is charged with maintaining a series of lists
that, in theory, contain names of suspected threats to American
security. In July, the ACLU estimated that the watch lists grew to over
1 million records.

watch lists that are supposed to keep America safe have grown so large,
they have actually become impediments to security," said Caroline
Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.
"Members of Congress, airline pilots, nuns, even Nelson Mandela, have
found themselves swept up on the watch lists. Americans aren't being
fooled into a false sense of security by these out of control watch
lists - they deserve a more credible approach to our nation's safety."

The ACLU calls for the following measures to be taken:

i) a
dramatic downsizing of the terrorist watch lists to contain only names
for whom there are credible evidence of terrorist ties or activities;

ii) implementation
of a true redress process with full due process rights so that innocent
people who find themselves mistakenly on the lists can be taken off -
and stay off;

iii) a complete overhaul of the computer databases used to house the watch lists.

TSA screeners need to be on the lookout for over 1 million potential
terrorist threats, there's no way they can be doing actual security
work effectively," added Timothy Sparapani, ACLU Senior Legislative
Counsel. "These lists divert limited resources away from providing real
security, while providing no recourse for the innocent victims caught
in the dragnet of suspicion. Congress should continue to investigate
and find an approach to airline security that is both effective for our
nation's safety and respects the freedom and liberty of innocent

ACLU of Pennsylvania recently filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of
Erich Scherfen and his wife, Rabina Tareen, who have both been wrongly
placed on the terrorist watch list. Scherfen, a decorated veteran of
the Persian Gulf War and a pilot for a regional commuter airline, has
received no explanation for having been placed on the list, as his
inquiries have been deposited into the black hole the government seems
to throw all complaints of this nature into.

To share your story with the terrorist watch lists go to:

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666