The air travel experience has gone through some significant changes in the past few years, mostly in the name of safety and security. Travelers have adjusted to the security procedures and have come to expect that these may involve waiting in longer lines, having personal items searched and being subject to increased scrutiny.
Though most travelers go through these procedures without a problem, what about the travelers who are singled out for additional, time-consuming security checks for reasons unknown to them?
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Transportation Security Admin- istration, a part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has been developing methods to assess the risk level of air travelers. One part of this risk assessment includes a "no-fly" list with names of individuals suspected of being a threat to airline or passenger safety.
Much is unclear about the criteria federal authorities use to place people on the list, but any individual whose name appears on this list will most likely be subject to additional security checks and may potentially be denied boarding.
Although your name is most likely not on the list, you still can encounter problems if your name resembles one on the list. For law-abiding travelers who are unfortunate enough to closely match a name on the list, this can make traveling a bit more of a hassle.
The TSA says the main reason these travelers would be singled out is to ensure they are who they say they are. Unfortunately, if this kind of name match happens once, it is likely to happen every time the person travels.
If you find yourself in this situation, there are steps you can take to try to fix the problem. The TSA recommends calling the TSA's Office of the Ombudsman at (571) 227-2383 or (877) OMBUDSMAN to report the problem and request a resolution. Travelers also may e-mail the office at TSA.Ombudsman@dhs.gov or send a fax to (571) 227-1387.
Groups such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center have expressed concern with the creation and maintenance of the no-fly list. The main issues most people have raised are the question of who maintains the list and why there is not an independent agency responsible for checking the quality and accuracy of the no-fly list.
According to news reports, the TSA relies on intelligence and law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, CIA and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, to provide the names that make up the list, and does not ask the agencies what qualifying factors are used.
For more information about the TSA, visit www.tsa.gov.