The Bush administration with its watch lists is increasingly getting innocent people caught in the web of being a "terrorist" because their name is similar. This does not even address the airline passenger watch list and the worldwide terrorist watch list.
The US Treasury list itself is posted on the US Treasury site - there's a link at the bottom of the article to go to it and you can see if you are on the watch list or someone you know.
Hello Big Brother - 1984 is here and alive and well.
Legal advocates focus on use of Treasury watch list
Thousands barred from doing business with Americans
Demian Bulwa, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Tom Kubbany of Arcata (Humboldt County) was surprised in July when he and his wife were denied a home loan -- until he saw his credit report.
The 57-year-old former postal worker had been linked to a government watch list of terrorist suspects and drug traffickers because his middle name, Hassan, happened to match an alias used by one of Saddam Hussein's sons.
"It was so surreal, I still can't believe it," Kubbany said.
Kubbany spoke Tuesday as a San Francisco legal advocacy group released a report calling for changes in the way mortgage brokers, car dealers and others use the watch list, which is operated by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control.
The list is available online and includes thousands of names of people, including Osama bin Laden, with whom Americans are barred by law from doing business. Almost all are foreigners who have a right to challenge their inclusion on the list.
Most businesses, which can be fined if they violate the law, do not check the list themselves. Instead, they pay data brokers who mine for matches and near-matches.
The list is 262 pages long and full of common Muslim and Latino names. Shirin Sinnar, who authored the report by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, said she knew of a dozen people who had suffered financial hardships because data brokers incorrectly reported that they were on the list.
The report asks the federal government to investigate how often such false positives harm innocent people, beef up oversight of those who use the list and give consumers a way to get help if falsely ensnared.
Treasury Department spokeswoman Brittni Aldridge said the agency works hard to help businesses spot false positives. Firms are asked to match up their customers' personal information to data on the list before calling a government hot line for "verification."
Kubbany said his name was flagged by credit bureau TransUnion of Chicago, but declined to give the name of the local mortgage broker he used.
A TransUnion spokeswoman, Colleen Tunney-Ryan, said those who use the company's service agree not to "take any adverse action against a consumer based solely" on a potential match.
Another official in the field said sloppiness or paranoia could be behind the problems cited in the report.
David Leverenz, who directs product management for watch-list screener Accuity of Skokie, Ill., said "false positives are the nature of the business" because there is so much incentive to avoid helping terrorists.
But he said banks and other businesses, while erring on the side of caution, know they must vet potential hits through further investigation or by calling the government.
Kubbany, a mental health worker and Kmart cashier, said he and his wife are still trying to buy a home after reapplying for a first-time buyer program through the city of Arcata. Their credit report has been fixed and they are working on a loan with Bank of America.
To see the list
To view the U.S. Treasury list of people barred from doing business with U.S. firms, go to links.sfgate.com/ZV