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What's in a Name?

Christina Talcott

Welcome back! I hope you had a nice Christmas, Hanukkah and/or start to Kwanzaa last week, and all your holiday travels went smoothly.

Yesterday I read with great interest this story in the Outlook section by Juan Fernando Gómez. Gomez is a Colombian-born international development consultant who keeps getting stopped by immigration officers when re-entering the U.S. because he has the same name as someone on the Terrorist Screening Center's watch list.

I confess to reading articles like these with my eyes peeled for weaknesses in the writers' arguments. In this case, I questioned Gomez's argument when he recounts advice he's gotten on how to get off the list:

"I've heard it all, from writing to my congressman (as if that would do any good) to filling out a form (never mind that no one has been able to produce the document or tell me where I can find it)."

Immediately, I wondered why he hasn't yet written his congressperson, despite his notion that it would be futile. Wouldn't it be worth a shot?

As for "filling out a form," a quick search on the Homeland Security Web site turned up the agency's Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP), with forms that can be filled out online and either mailed or e-mailed. Having never used this program, though, I can't vouch for its effectiveness in getting someone cleared when he or she has the same name as someone on a watch list. (We won't even get into Maryland activists landing on those lists...)

Nevertheless, I feel like Gomez could save himself a lot of trouble by taking these steps to end his repeated detentions. However, if he does write to his representative and submit a DHS TRIP complaint and he still gets detained, well, then I think that's worth another Outlook piece.

Anyone have another opinion?

* Travel Log will go dark for the rest of this week, returning on Monday, Jan. 5. Have a safe holiday.

By Christina Talcott |  December 29, 2008; 1:16 PM ET  | Category:  Air Travel , Christina Talcott , In the News , Travel Survival Tips , security
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My girlfriend is Latina and a naturalized US citizen. She is also a senior NCO in the USA. DOD has entrusted her with access to classified info and she has worked for the Secdef. However, when we travel she is pulled into the little room and stripped search. And yeah she filled out the little TRIP form multiple times and we have done numerous Congressionals. OSD officials and DHS officals have investigated but it still happens. And boy to TSA officials get testy when you question their competence when they get called into my office. and we still dont know why.

Posted by: sheepherder | December 30, 2008 7:10 AM

My advice to him is legally change his name to something else.

Here is a concept with passports why nothave a secondary code when they scan it and it shows up he is not a terrorist.

I have had arguments with TSA officials before regarding one travel trip for work (with the fed govt). I was traveling to minneaplois and chicago booked through DOD travel system from H$LL. Due to contracted GSA govt carriers, my flights with each leg were on different carriers. I got in a ping pong match with TSA officials and Northwest airlines on finding out who blackballed me for extra security check because on my boarding pass was a code if I recall...SSSS ....which meant more security vchecks. I am utterly amazed by this because who paid for the plane ticket (answer the federal government) and I had my govt id card with me too---but TSA still didnt care. I think TSA just doesnt use common sense.

I do believe and I would like a class action suit made against TSA which allows people to be able to find out if they are on the list--not see the whole list but if their name is on it. If it is on it then they couls maybe get a secondary id card that is issued by the TSA that says they arent the bad person.

Posted by: djp98374 | December 30, 2008 11:07 AM

Yeah, because TSA is such a well-oiled machine. I'm sure filling out forms and contacting your Congressman...oh, wait, maybe not.

TSA is a joke. Ask Bruce Schneier - who so aptly refers to it as "Security Theater" - or read this article from the Atlantic (the last section of the article shows you how arbitrary TSA training can be:

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | December 31, 2008 11:27 AM

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