The Senate reviews the agency's plans to cut the list in half by February and avoid misidentifying citizens as terrorists.
The Transportation Security Administration plans to clean up its list of those forbidden from flying, reducing the number of people on the national No Fly List by about half, the agency's head said Wednesday.
Testifying before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, TSA director Kip Hawley said that agencies responsible for compiling the No Fly List "are in the process of a thorough, name-by-name review of that list. We expect that by the time the review is completed in mid-February, the No Fly List should be reduced by approximately 50%. A similar review will be undertaken with respect to the Selectee List."
The No Fly List identifies aims to identify those who are too dangerous to be allowed on commercial airliners. Air passengers on the Selectee List may fly but are subject to more vigorous security screening.
The lists have been widely criticized for denying air travel to law abiding citizens or impeding it. A September 2006 Government Accounting Office report found that between December 2003 and January 2006, government security agencies "agencies sent tens of thousands of names to [FBI's Terrorist Screening Center], and about half were misidentifications, according to the TSC."
The TSA's No Fly and Selectee lists represent a subset of the TSC's consolidated watch list.
Also on Wednesday, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff issued a statement announcing the launch of the DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program "to address watch list misidentification issues, situations where individuals believe they have faced screening problems at immigration points of entry, or have been unfairly or incorrectly delayed, denied boarding or identified for additional screening at our nation's transportation hubs."
According to the GAO, the TSC reported processing 112 requests for redress and removed 31 names of individuals mistakenly listed on the watch list in 2005.
The news comes at a time of marked reversals of controversial Bush Administration policies and programs. Also on Wednesday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales sent a letter to Senators Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter, respectively the chairman and the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to inform them that the government's Terrorist Surveillance Program will now be overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Previously, the program had operated without judicial oversight, a fact that drew significant criticism from Democrats, some Republicans, and civil liberties groups.
Following a hearing last week on government data mining programs, the American Civil Liberties Union praised the new Congress for examining the privacy implications of programs like the Department of Homeland Security's Automated Tracking System, which aims track citizens and non-citizens entering or leaving the country using a computer-generated risk rating that will be maintained for decades.
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