In Friday's Chronicle, the paper's editorial page editor, John Diaz, writes that he recently discovered that he was placed on the Government's "Watch List." Which makes sense, we guess, because Diaz is Arabic for "not even close to sounding Arabic." In the piece, Diaz says that when he tried to print out his advance tickets at the airport, he was instead told to go to the counter. There, he was told the reason for all this was because he was on double secret probation
Diaz then called the Transportation Security Administration to find out why he was on the list but wasn't able to get any information on why. Usually people are put on there if they are actually deemed to be watch-worthy or because they get mixed up with somebody else on the list, whether it be because of similar names or birthdays or MySpace friends as somebody who is on the list.
Now, there have been rumors for awhile that people on the watch list have included activists and general rabble-rousers. They've also ensnared a whole bunch of people with absolutely no claims to be anything other than your average Joe or Jane (wasn't there a story lately about a baby being on the list?). Diaz could have been put on the list because of a mistake or they could be targeting him because he's in charge of the editorial page of a San Francisco newspaper. If that is true, we could only wonder what kind of lists Bruce Brugman's on.
The problem, as Diaz discovered, is that there's no real way of correcting any of this. The TSA won't say who's on it or why. They are also saying that they're working on correcting the list but have no idea when it'll be done. There is a way of redressing matters, the Travel Redress Inquiry Program (or “TRIP”), by letting the TSA know they've been wrongly put on the list, but you have to go through a huge, bureaucratic maze to get anywhere. And naturally, there's a movement afoot to make that secretive too. What that will mean is that you could be on their list and the only way of knowing they've taken you off is if they go through all the trouble of telling you.