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Wednesday, May 09, 2007


When is the last time you rented a car or refinanced your mortgage? Chances are your name was checked against a government hit list to make sure you aren’t a terrorist or drug trafficker. If denied services, your name may have been similar to one on the list. This archive of supposed bad guys has been around for years but after 9/11, Bush decided to expand its use in “unforeseen ways,” according to an article in the Washington Post. They’re called “specially designated nationals” and so far at least a dozen cases have been documented where an innocent U.S. customer was denied or delayed in the completion of their transaction. There’s a good reason for over reacting; anyone doing business with a person on the list could be fined up to $10 million and 10 to 30 years in prison. A Maryland lawyer who describes the list as “ridiculous” says the local deli could sell an SDN a sandwich and violate the law. I know something about getting false results in the comparing of names from my experience in the junk mail industry. When you run several lists against each other to eliminate the duplicates, the error rate could be significant because of the similarities. I don’t know what kind of match formula the government list uses but it would be impossible to get certifiable results just comparing names. Some other factor is required to validate the results. There are other mistaken cases that you can read about in the article, but it all comes down to more Big Brother and less civil rights.

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