back to article 16,000 namesakes cry foul over US terror watch list

You may put 'em on the list — you may put 'em on the list; And they'll none of 'em be missed — they'll none of 'em be missed! - The Mikado In the last eight months, more than 16,000 US travelers have complained that the FBI's "terrorist watch" list has mistakenly delayed their travel plans. In February, the Transportation …


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  1. E

    It is kind of odd

    I think the TSA should at least have to verify that the four year old has at least had the opportunity to see his family killed by USA/Brit/Israeli cluster bombs/hellfires/5000lb bomb/idle-shots-by-bored-soldiers, or his sisters and mother raped by USA/Brit/Israeli allies of the 'Northern Alliance' or Phalangist variety, or at the very least watch his brothers and father have had holes drilled in their legs by same.

    It is unjust to categorise someone as a terrorist without giving him a a good reason to be one. More so, when there are now so many places where one can aquire the reason.

  2. john doe

    so Javaid has carte blanche now...

    "...And Javaid's passport now contains a sticker saying he has undergone highlevel security checks...."

    So the terrorists can now employ namesakes and end up with one operative with warrant and another one with a cool sticker on his passport.

  3. Andrew Tyler

    Anderson, J

    John Andersen... let's get out the old phonebook: 35 John Andersons.

    Edward Allen... only three for that one. There are 12 E Allens though.

    No Javaid Iqbals, though there is a Zafar Iqbal. Maybe he's a terrorist. Can't be too careful, better add him to the list.

    I feel so safe it's scary.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An Idea

    What about if the Americans just label everyone a terrorist, ban everyone from flying and then we can all move on. This way, DHS will feel all snug and safe, the Americans will reach their environmental targets because there won't be any bloody planes in the air.

    The fact that this approach is so utterly ludicrous and taken so seriously is proof positive that the American Gov (TM) is 2 sandwiches short of a picnic.

    PH angle - now wouldn't it be really funny is a certain Hilton name got added? - oh wait no, that would be yet more free publicity for a useless fuckwit who should have been removed from the gene pool long ago.

  5. E

    Another thing

    WTH are "highlevel security checks"?

    What does that sentence fragment mean? Does it mean that high level spooks checked him out? Or does it mean that a "high level" brid's eye view scan of records done by some rent a cop checked the guy out?

    The entire process seems to me to be designed to put electronic yellow stars of David on the people that certain other people, bureaucrats of the security apparatus, do not like. How are the unlikeable people identified? By their ethnicity, by their name, as if either of these characteristics indicate anything about the character of the subjects of inquiry.

    There were people in Nazi Germany that claimed they could identify subhumans and proper aryans based on measurements of the skull, the nose, of eye color. It was pure, vile, poppycock. Now we have new people that claim they can do the same trick, with different adjectives of course, based on what is in their database. The database definition is of course just as obscure and secret as the art of the Nazi medical profiler.

    I propose a revolution: take all the people who insist on implementing policies that they cannot or will not explain and defend in plain language, and put them up against the wall. Then do the same with their bosses, their bosses' bosses..., then follow the money trails and put the people funding the bureaucrats up against the wall.

  6. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Absolutely no way to get fake ID

    At least the US gestapo have got their priorities right, blocking travellers by name. Because, of course, there is absolutely no way to get fake ID.

    Yes, I too feel safer now.

    (Dammit - which if these Icons is for "sacasm" and will turn all my text purple, the _approved_ colour for sarcasm).

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    only in america...

    ...would security lack the common sense not to stop a 6 yearold incase he is a terrorist.

    a thoroughly ridiculous place.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Cue american jokes

    So Edward Allen, why are you on the terrorist list ? have you been terrorising your mum ?

    How can any right mind person think that the Edward Allen on their list is the terrorist one? oh hang on they're Americans

  9. Andy Worth

    At the risk of being cliche......

    Reg readers said this would happen (i.e. we told them so)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who decides who's a terrorist anyway?

    Technically, someone who is fighting foreign troops that occupy their country is not a terrorist. During world war II, civilians fighting the Germans were called resistance and considered heroes at the end of the war.

    I wonder if this is enough to get me on that list.

  11. Chris Hawkins

    End of Flights to the US

    If you follow the financial markets at present many countries including China are shifting their financial assets out of dollars, hence the weakening currency. The number of tourists visiting the US has dropped, and more and more people I know, now say they will avoid travelling to or transiting the US as it is to much of a hassle. The US economy is going from bad to worse.

    The time really has come to move agencies like the UN out of the US to somewhere like Geneva, and stop all flights to the US. Let people fly to Canada and then, if they want to, cross the frontier by road or train. (Although I suspect there will be a "no-train" policy implemented there soon as well.) This would also put an end to biased bilateral flight arrangements between the UK, Europe and the US which always end up in the favour of the US and ease congestion at Heathrow. (It might also put BA out of business but what the heck, Ryanair will take its place!)

    As regards internal US flights, the ending of all flights with alien foreigners (funny never considered myself to be form another planet!) to the US, should release enough capacity at US airports to ease their internal air traffic control system and allow for vetting of each individual flying. If passengers need to go to Hawai, use a Hawaii Five O longboat from California, and Alaska, husky sled.

    On an IT angle it would give a boost to Lenovo and the Chinese IT industry's future efforts to dominate the world.

    Finally, it would also reduce international sightings of PH. ;)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Actually my...

    ..nephew is a right little terror. Glad there is some defence against his Dennis the Menance type antics.

    For too long have we lived in the shadow of fear generated by Toddler Terror (tm)

    Good on you US of A.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Mr. Anderrrson

    So guys in dark suits and shades are approaching possible freedom fighters, tapping them on the shoulder and drawling "Mr. Anderrrson..."

    Maybe they should be watching the four-year olds after all, especially funny-looking ones who can bend spoons (if indeed there actually is a spoon).

    Perhaps the truth is not that it is hard to get onto the "cleared" list, but you first have to realise that there is no list.

  14. Shonko Kid
    Black Helicopters

    Why doesn't everyone...

    change their names to Osama Bin Laden, by deed poll, then book a nice trip to DC....

  15. Shaun Vizer

    Common sense?

    Ok so the yanks have the right to defend their borders just like any other country and whilst I don't agree with all their measures doesn't mean I don't think some of them are quite valid.

    The only issue I have with anything implemented is when it has been implemented badly, or worse not understood by the people enforcing the measures, how on this god's green earth do they believe a child under 12 got on to a terrorist suspect list.

    Obviously anyone with a smidgen of common sense could see that it was a duplicate, this I feel is the real issue with these measures putting brain dead imbeciles in charge of running them.

    I hate having to go to the US these days, before 9/11 it was a pain in the ass now it is downright dangerous and I thank the stars that I am a white Caucasian going in to the states because I fear for anyone that has a tan or looks in any way from the middle east or just plain foreign.

  16. JP

    And they wonder why...

    As if the American airlines aren't having enough trouble trying to turn a profit, their own government is stopping half the their passengers from getting on board!

    It's also the reason why I try to avoid flying to/via the US. (I already avoid US carriers 'cause their service is just absolute crap...)

  17. alistair millington

    America - land of the Rtards

    Javaid has a sticker telling people he isn't a terrorist. Ahhh the legendary 7 year genocidal maniac. Well known around the world that one.

    FFS - All that money hassle and liberty lost and still security there is in the hands of a ten pound gadget shop sticker machine.

    That country is a joke.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fly to the US? - no thanks! :-)

    > "We're still waiting for complete information so we can look into their claims,"

    They're guilty until they prove themselves innocent - reminds me of the TV Gestapo*.

    > And Javaid's passport now contains a sticker

    So there's a roaring trade in passport stickers now, is there? Certainly saves the bother of faking an ID.

    > saying he has undergone highlevel security checks.

    Knowing the yanks' anal fixation, I bet it's more like an in depth low level security check.

    *oops, violation of Godwin's law?

  19. Anonymous Coward

    The first clue

    must have been the fact that John Anderson and Edward Allen aren't very Muslim sounding names. They must have got on the list by mistake.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    At least...'s more ammunition to hurl into the vacant faces of those who parrot "If you have nothing to hide...".

    I'm glad I have a pretty unique name; it's unlikely to get on the list unless they make a mistake about *me* rather than a mistake about someone else.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here it comes

    You people are just biased against the god-fearing American people and our sainted President George W Bush and you'll laugh on the other side of your faces when we have to save your sorry asses again like we've done for centuries.

    I just thought I'd get that out of the way before the yanks wake up. Actually I'm English.

  22. teacake


    Is the cleared version of the Watch List a "No-Watch" List? And do airport security therefore have to avert their eyes when one of the people on this list is in front of them?

    And does anyone on the corresponding "Fly!" list have to be bundled onto the first available plane?

  23. Pum

    1984 arrived a few years late

    yet more examples of how our so called free western world is turning into a police-state. Blanket oppression of the proles under the excuse of "security". Convicting people of thought-crimes (possession of a book, otherwise known as "material likely to be useful for terrorism").

    Those who give up a little freedom for a little security end up having neither.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    John Anderson

    "Mister Anderson!"

    "My Name, is NEO!"

    ... Atleast we now know why he used that alias. :-)

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    First they came...

    Martin Niemöller (1892–1984):

    " In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;

    And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;

    And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;

    And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up."

  26. breakfast

    Edward Allen

    Most toddlers terrorise their parents from time to time so the authorities were probably pretty close.

    Actually, this isn't so bad as it sounds. I wish the annoying kids sat behind me on the last trans-atlantic flight I went on had names that sounded like they might be terrorist, that would have given me a much more peaceful flight.

  27. Karl Lattimer
    Paris Hilton

    Oh dear

    Lets not go to 'america'... it is a silly place

    -- Paraphrased from the holy grail...

    I see Godwins law has been firmly applied's_law

    I do however agree that having some privately held list of miscreants isn't doing anyone any good, especially when its patently obvious that the americans couldn't find their arse with both hands and their left hand doesn't know what their right hand is doing.

    This is what happens when you dumb down an entire nation through the use of mind numbing media nonsense like Paris Hilton, of already half inbred morons... I recon we all need to get firmly behind John Cleese and revoke this independence thing before it goes any further.

    BTW: There's your paris hilton angle... If it wasn't for dumbass television with dumbass non celebrity slut-cum-bags like paris hilton america may have been 5 IQ points higher on average and that would have led to some common sense being applied.

  28. Adrian
    Dead Vulture

    It could be worse

    It's just as well tha the shoe bomber Richard Reid was not called John Smith and hid the bomb in his underpants.

    Imagine the security then...

  29. Anonymous Coward


    I'd like to see all young children on the no fly list until they've learned to be quiet & behave. Then they get a sticker in their passport for that.

  30. Nano nano

    re: First they came ... to Iran

    But, in a similar fashion to how there aren't any gay people in Iran, there aren't any communists in the USA, are there, George ? [And certainly not in the Facebook profile options]

  31. Frank Bitterlich

    Great that you can opt-out of the no-fly list...

    .. but, of course, you must prove that you are not guilty; just being 4 years old doesn't count. Otherwise, of course, you're assumed guilty. Hmmm, waitaminute, wasn't that supposed to be he other way around?

  32. Luther Blissett

    Charging into the new medieval period

    The unrecognized problematic of the current charge of the "developed" world headlong rush into a renewed feudalism is that the banana comed with the 300lb gorilla attached.

    In a hyperreal world dominated by simulations, including the simulation of threats to security (from simulacra), the model is confused with reality. The model in this case being the only extent model available - the historical frame of the medieval period. Think Crusaders, for example.

    Notice that the events of 9/11 coincided with a contemporaneous simulation of preparedness - there a presented simulation was used in a sophisticated interplay with actual events to disguise the mechanics of erecting a new simulation (the future "war on terror"). But since the long-held distinction between knowledge and (supposed) objects ("out there") which cause knowledge has disappeared in the hyperreal, the new Crusaders are obliged to accept the philosophical baggage of the period, as there is no criterion for its elimination. So the medieval revival also features a resurrection of ideas about "universals", and a repeat polarization of views about them into the scholasticist philosophies characteristic of the period. But rather than read a philosophy book, have a laugh with Eco's The Name of the Rose. Then ask yourself if it can really be the case that having a name in common with one on the "terror watch list" justifies the belief that those people must share attributes in common, e.g. suspected of being a terrorist?

    Rejecting Platonism, and introducing the element of time into the picture, adds the "problem" of potential futures - ie the attribute of " may cause terrorism in the future". So the ontology of the present becomes an issue of the epistemology of the future, with the matter of criteria of justifying claims. For example try the concept of "latent terrorist", ie someone who might become a terrorist, where the operative philosophical categories are those of "being" (a present tense "is") and "becoming" (a future tense "is"), and the problem is to coordinate these in a rational way. Unfortunately, when the hyperreal dominates, some of the most useful criteria evaporate at the same time.

    It would appear the watch list has decision making built in which uses proper names as one the criteria used. The system would be pretty useless if it could not accommodate the propensity of criminals to use aliases, so a properly loaded database would have to include previously used names, including any which happened to be those of bona fide suspects. So no help for those inconvenienced by the system. And no particular problem for those the system would like to catch. The system is inherently incapable of succeding in its intent for the reasons given. It succeeds in providing a sense of security which is hyperreal.

  33. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    97% not on the list ?

    And yet they still get strip-searched ?

    Sounds like they're on the list to me. This is madness.

    One thing's for sure though, I'm not going over there as long as this lunacy is in place.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Err, hang on a sec...

    Did anyone else notice:

    There are two lists, one that is a no fly list that has all of the names of the people not allowed to fly. The problem here is that people with the same name as the intended no-flyers can also be stopped from flying.


    We'll make another list that has the names of people allowed to fly. Assuming that the same monkeys setup this list's databases, it'll have the lists of names of people allowed to fly, the trouble being that they are the same as the names of the people not allowed to fly.

    This is making my brain hurt, but I'm sure there is some sort of potential for massive fuckup somewhere, I just can't put my finger on it...

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    I wonder...

    ... where you can get a list of permissible names; then you can name all your future children according to the "GWB Name Decree".

    Better still; when will some well meaning Cracker just insert EVERY NAME from the phonebook (or off-it) into the No-Fly list. (or just the children)

    That would make things fair.

  36. teacake

    @Luther Blissett

    The unrecognised problematic? Simulacra? Rejecting Platonism? The ontology of the present becomes an issue of the epistemology of the future?

    Are you by any chance talking bollocks?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Andrew Tyler

    Zafar Iqbal a terrorist?

    Close. The one I knew is a lawyer. But there again says there are 753 Zafar Iqbals in the UK alone.

  38. Dan
    Black Helicopters

    @First they came

    First they came for the enemy combatants.

    And I didn't speak up, because I was not an enemy combatant.

  39. J


    "I'm glad I have a pretty unique name"

    Nah... plenty of Anonymous Cowards around here. Or are they all you!? Is your name Legion?

  40. Schultz Silver badge

    755,000 terrorists

    Whow, somebody has been busy with the phonebooks. Or maybe 100 monkeys sitting in their offices for one year typing 20 names a day ...

    Any bets about the number of false positives?

    What about the ration between false positives versus true terrorists

    ... on the list?

    ... or in the world?

  41. Garth

    You all...

    ...seem pretty smug in your disgust for what lack of common sense demonstrated by America/Americans. As if the U.S. is the only nationality that frequents these El Reg that has a government participating on massive over-reach and a general disregard of personal liberties.

    There are some born and raised in the U.S. that actually comprehend that other countries exist and lament greatly the prestige and integrity our government as squandered.

    It seems a shame that we've decided to follow in the footsteps of the English. You'd think they'd be proud like an old father. The old colonies have grown up and taken over the family business.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Child terrorists you say...

    I don't want to fly anywhere nowadays, partly because of the whole going-through-security thing, you can't smoke on planes or carry much stuff with you for the journey etc. and partly because my name is a Muslim one (everyone thinks it's Welsh though), even though I was born in the UK and my family right down the ancestor tree herald from the UK.

  43. Charley

    @ Luther Blissett

    I believe this is the appropriate icon for your comment.

  44. Svein Skogen

    Maybe we need another list

    Maybe we need a list of the equipment and services-providers selling their gear/services to the Department of Homeland Stupidity?


    So the rest of us can stop shopping from them, that's why.

    If Equipment manufacturers start loosing other business because they sell as much as a floppy disk to DHS, maybe we start getting some movement.

    Until such a list appears, I'll just play safe, and ask for a ban on anything made by manufacturers owned by americans, and an international disregard for American "IP" (Intellectual Property, not addresses from ARIN). It's about time we starve out this administration, and their commercial allies.

    As long as there isn't an economic incentive for distancing themselves from this Corporistic Society (USA), companies will continue to support it. If companies start loosing money from supporting it, they WILL distance themselves.

    In my book: If you sell equipment and services to the CLEARLY illegal acts of this government, you should be BANNED from selling equipment in true democracies. As should your employees be banned from exiting your corporistic country without being rouded up in detention camps.

    Maybe we should start by impounding Air Force One until USA pays off their foreign debt?


  45. rachel

    Middle Names People...Middle Names

    The majority of US residents employ what's known as a "middle name". Why aren't these also required for the list? This would eliminate much of the confusion with the more common names. After all, passports at least in the USA and UK, include all names including middle names.

    Imagine, the government trying to actually make something run wonder they haven't thought of this yet.

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