Friday, July 18, 2008

Kafka's FBI Watch List over 1 million, grows 20,000 a month ...

Via FMH, the ACLU estimates the GOP/FBI "terrorist" Watch List (aka "the watchlist") has topped 1 million (ACLU estimate). It grows by 20,000 names a month, and it seemingly never shrinks. The ACLU provides a handy the counter and a form to complete if you've been harmed by the Watch List (typically extended inspection when flying).

The watch list is a corollary to the worthless no fly list. There used to be a TSA form to ask for removal from the no fly list, but the old link doesn't work any more. More recently the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) appeal program was recently reviewed by MSNBC (emphases mine):
... As of January 2008, some 24,000 people had used TRIP to appeal their inclusion on the lists. The TSA hasn’t revealed how many applicants have been officially cleared or whether clearance has actually resulted in no-hassle flying. Anecdotal reports from frequent fliers maintain that many travelers who were told they were cleared continue to be stopped in airports. 
The TSA press office in Washington, D.C. declined to take questions about TRIP from an writer, referring the writer to TSA spokesman Nico Melendez in Southern California. Melendez didn’t return the reporter’s telephone call or reply by e-mail for this story
In past years, TSA spokespeople suggested that aggrieved travelers contact the TSA ombudsman to set things right, but TRIP has largely superseded the earlier procedure. Perhaps that’s for the best, as the TSA ombudsman’s office has received scathingly bad reviews from TSA employees, as related by a report made public in late June by the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security. Complaining of poor training and tone-deaf management, some 20 percent of TSA screeners quit their jobs last year. 
As it stands, TRIP consists mainly of an online form. Travelers who want to tap into TRIP should go to the TSA’s Web site, look for the "Resource Center" section on the right-hand side of the page and follow the prompts...
Physicians would recognize the Watch List as one of those stupid lab tests that come out every few years claiming to find some nasty cancer, but ends up sending vast numbers of healthy people for misguided surgical procedures.

It's another Cheney/Bush legacy that Bush III (McCain) will institutionalize.

The ACLU's response is rational and similar to regulations for cleansing credit reports ...
  • due process
  • a right to access and challenge data upon which listing is based
  • tight criteria for adding names to the lists
  • rigorous procedures for updating and cleansing names from the lists.
Of course if the FBI actually followed those rules the list would be revealed as a worthless waste of money and a source of security-reducing noise.

The ACLU is doing good work. I should donate to them. Problem is, I've done that before. The ACLU has their own version of a "watch list" -- it's their "donor list". They use it to generate killer levels of paper spam (junk mail), and they sell it widely. I need a way to send plain unmarked bills to the ACLU so they can't spam me. Ideas?

See also:
Update 7/21/08: Schneier has a review, with links to notabob's basic predictive value analysis:
... We match (50 + 6) / (444 + 50 + 6) = 11.2% of terrorists using this scheme. 
Of the people matched, (50 + 6) / (990,000 + 50 + 6) = 0.006% are terrorists. Put another way, 99.994% of all people matched are innocent...
In medicine, this is what's known as a "worse than useless test". Lousy sensitivity, impossibly miserable specificity.

This is why I want to stop teaching calculus in high school, and make basic probability a requirement for graduation. Heck, it will come in handy at the Casino at least.

If the FBI's matcher were a lab test, it would never be approved for use.

If McCain gets in this will never go away.

No comments: