July 16th, 2008
09:50 PM ET

KEEPING THEM HONEST: Million Man Watch List

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/16/tsatsa.copy.jpg]

It grew out of 9-11 and today the ACLU says the problem is that it keeps growing. The FBI's terror watch list, now has 400,000 people on it – with aliases, that comes to a million names. The FBI says it's working, its making air travel safer but if your name is the same as any of the names on the list, it's making your air travel an even bigger hassle.  Drew Griffin showed you how easy it is to get on the list and how hard it is to get off. Here’s the link to the first step to getting your name off the list.

soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Paul

    I ended up on the list in 2006. I worked at changing that for 7 months. When I finally got a letter from the TSA, I then had the problem of where to send it. This letter must be presented to each airline that you encountered the check-in difficulty. It took 3 weeks to figure out who to send that to. Eventually, they placed my telephone number and email address in an override file. If those don't match, I'm back to being a similar match.

    This whole thing is so poorly managed, and makes no sense at all.

    I am a Flight Attendant. If I'm wearing my uniform and present my badge at security, I don't need a boarding pass. I then can present my badge at the departure gate and ask to take the jump seat. If the flight is not full, I end up in a passenger seat. Yet if I was not in the override file, my check-in would be delayed.

    I would not doubt it at all if people are on it for political reasons.

    Paul in Phoenix AZ

    July 17, 2008 at 6:01 am |
  2. shahriar

    Anderson, I think if you are American you still can move on with your life except some delay and some inconvenience, what about if you are legal resident of united State but you are from Middle East. OH god you are gone get a hell at the airport. That’s what happened to me every single time. I am started to hate traveling and even being at airport makes me nervous. I hope God punish Ben laden here on earth and on other side for making this world such mess and specially made living in such wonderful country not that appealing.

    July 17, 2008 at 3:03 am |
  3. Denise Robinson

    I just saw the "watchlist" story and it hit home for me. I have a son, James Robinson, that has been on the watchlist for the last 3 years, since he was 5 years old. I have been through the process of submitting all the personal information for my son and our entire family but nothing has worked. The TSA and airlines can't and won't give you any information about if you are on the list, why, how to get off, etc. Most recently, I went through the process to get James a US passport. James has not been on a flight since the issuance of the passport, but based on your story tonight, I do not believe it will remove from the "list". Seeing Jim Robinson, the ACLU attorney, on your show tonight was very enlightening as to why my son is on the list and likely won't be off any time soon.

    July 17, 2008 at 2:50 am |
  4. Robert Skiba

    No Bull - Your Biased!

    Another Biased Report by Anderson Cooper 360, this time on the TSA Watch List!

    Interesting that the Blog Website has the Official FBI/TSA"s number of people on the "Watch List", but, tonight's TV Report by Drew Griffin only cites the ACLU 1.0 M number? In addition, the TSA stated that the ACLU's 1.0 M number was wrong and they refuted the ACLU "Press Release"

    In addition, if this is such an Issue why not actually request that a Senior TSA Official comment on the matter, not a "Cold Call" to the TSA "Help Line" and an obvious lower eschelon TSA Contact and a telephone "Gotcha" recording.

    I am sure that CNN could have gotten an interview with a Senior TSA
    Official if they really wanted to. But, why let the "Official Facts" get in the way of a sensational biased story.

    Please note that they were able to get a Senior Official from the ACLU to comment on their "Press Release - Findings".

    This is the last time I will waste my time watching AC 360, I will still stick with Lou Dobbs, at least his coverage is unbiased and fair.

    Bring Back Peter Arnett!

    At least he was a real journalist and was honest about his Opinions and Biases!

    Cartoon Journalism Reigns at CNN!

    July 17, 2008 at 2:03 am |
  5. JV

    I watched your reports for the last two nights on Drew Griffin whom all of a sudden ended up on the watch list after he provided a negative report on the TSA. I still think that you've not asked some of the most important questions.

    Where and what lead to the original suspect to end up on the list that he keeps getting confused with?

    Can they provide a reason as to why the original suspect was added to the list?

    What person or agency was responsible for providing that information?

    If the TSA takes over control of the watch list, is anyone concerned that as incompetent as they are, more and more people are going to be subjected to same sort of harassment?

    Most Americans feel that this is just another form of quiet harassment that the current administration has been using to discourage dissent. Is there a chance that the Freedom of Information Act could be used to require the release of the full list and some degree of accountability.

    Concerned in Austin.

    July 17, 2008 at 2:03 am |
  6. Tony

    I was placed on the watch list in Jan. I filled out all of the required paperwork and mailed it in. I received a letter back from the TSA informing me that I was cleared and should be able to check in without issue. That was 2+ months ago. I am still being stopped every time I fly. Let me know if you want a copy of the letter I received from the TSA.

    July 17, 2008 at 1:53 am |
  7. Dianne Reeves

    Sorry, Anderson. This is not reporting when you can google terror watch list and instantly go to the State Department. You will not get anywhere, no matter what you ask. You can just assume, that if you asked, and that you are on it.

    July 17, 2008 at 1:46 am |
  8. Mike W.

    Six trips inter-island in Hawaii and two trips to Seattle. The first time Christmas eve. 2004 the last flight to Hilo. I was delayed at the counter 20 min. and almost missed the flight. I am always checked at TSA. After the first flight the airline counter person. takes my boarding and says to me "you know the drill." So I wait another twenty minutes.
    I feel sorry for those who go more often. Also i just retired from 42 yrs.gov, worker and used my gov. id card and it still takes 20 min. I don't believe it is just the name.

    July 17, 2008 at 1:34 am |
  9. Steven Morris

    Why that is our current President Bush can come on national television and state that we have challenges but our economy is good? Why has the media in the last seven years fail to call him for account of driving the nation into ruin? I am a go to work everyday American and I just do not understand why the American media has not called him to the carpet. I am sure of one thing, and that is he has been and never hiss been in touch with the pulse of the true feelings of the working class. We are suffering while he send countless dollars overseas and wages war the as a people we have stood by him but, we knew his was wrong.

    Who really speaks for the everyday working person? I have already dropped the FOX network to the curb. Do I need to do the same for CNN or can you really deal what we the back bone of this country are dealing with.

    You published everything Clinton did in office and that was a good thing but, now it seems you have a failure to do your job and talk to the real people who work and die for this country. How many elected official worry about if they are going to get a visit at their door that I am sorry to inform you? or go to work to find out that your company is moving overseas and we no longer have a position for you?

    We are living in a time of a sad state of affairs and all we are hearing are false reasons and false Prophecies. I am sending you this message because I believe you will not just let the deception continue

    Yours Truly,
    A working Class American taking notice

    July 17, 2008 at 12:19 am |
  10. Jim-

    Are all those on Capitol Hill on the list? They are doing more damage than terrorists. With Representatives like these who needs terrorists?
    & they wonder WHY the ratings are so low?

    July 17, 2008 at 12:13 am |
  11. Todd

    If you think Drew Griffin has a problem getting on a flight, try being an international airline pilot for a major US airline and being on a watch list. Every time you go to work and try to come back into your own country a US emigrations officer has to make an inquire by phone to see if you are not a terrorist, this is after you piloted an airplane with almost 300 passenger from Europe to the US.

    July 17, 2008 at 12:03 am |
  12. Lorne VJ Cooper

    How does one find out if I am on "THE LIST?"

    July 16, 2008 at 11:58 pm |
  13. Marcia

    There cannot be 1 million terrorists/criminals in the USA. My husband has a flawless background, is an executive with 20+ years with the same multi-national corp and has been on the list for some years, making his travel a nightmare. His corporate legal staff used the Freedom of Information Act to get a response from Homeland Security. He has been told that someone with his (very common) name is a bad person and therefore everyone with his name must go on the list. H.S. says they are unable to differentiate individuals with the same or even similar names. The entire family must carry a letter from Homeland Security that says my husband is not a criminal, but must nevertheless remain on the list. H.S. is hopeful that this letter will help us when we are being interrogated by H. S. Ironically, the letter closes by thanking us for our interest in Homeland Security. I do not believe that H. S. has a functioning, actionable list at all. They have a list of 1 million random people, and it is useless, serving only to bring more Americans to their knees.

    July 16, 2008 at 11:53 pm |
  14. David

    I had been on this list for years, many years. I travel via airplane about twice a month, but sometimes much more often than that.
    I'm never allow to check-in on the kiosk, or get my boarding pass on-line as many frequent fliers do. for example because I'm required to go to the counter. My names are very common, (my first name is David)
    I feel harass and with not place to complain about it.
    I'm sure this violate my rights as citizen. Can somebody do anything about this?
    Somebody suggested it just not traveling via airplane, that is unrealistic for people like me.

    July 16, 2008 at 11:53 pm |
  15. Rose

    Sorry for the off-topic post...

    Apparently there's a national security thing called "Total Information Awareness," a sort of mega-database, that is designed to keep information and never to lose it. Maybe that's why the watch lists never get "cleaned" of wrong information.

    July 16, 2008 at 11:48 pm |
  16. Eduardo Garcia

    I am a US citizen. I get detained, everytime I arrive, with illegal aliens. The reasons, for immigration hold, is that my name matches "somebody". The point, is that it is humiliating, and a total waste of time, to be detained. I missed a connecting flight last time, this happend. Nobody discussed, the economic impact of this procedure.

    July 16, 2008 at 11:48 pm |
  17. Thomas Wright

    I am one of the "seemingly solid citizens" on the terrorist watch list. I became aware of this shortly after it was revealed that Ted Kennedy was on the list and had to prove his identity each time he flew back and forth between Boston and Washington. The same thing happens to me each time I fly. This misinformation would be funny if it weren't so serious an issue for the nation.

    The maddening this about this is that our government is so grossly inefficient, and evidently very incompetent in protecting us from terrorism. In this "information age", they can't seem to match up my address, credit card number, etc, with me. So what good is all this information they have about me? Apparently, they don't know what to do with it. I have no doubt an identity thief would know how to use it!

    I often wonder about "my evil twin" out there who is apparently working for Al Qaeda or some other terrorist organization. How did he get my name, and how is it that our incompetent government has no idea who and where he is? Believe me, if I were in charge, I would fire them all and replace the TSA with competent management.

    July 16, 2008 at 11:46 pm |
  18. EJ (USA)

    What does your senior legal expert, Jeffrey Toobin, have to say about this terror watch list?

    July 16, 2008 at 11:41 pm |
  19. Jane

    I'M ON THE MILLION MAN AND WOMAN WATCH LIST, TOO. Have been for about three years. Just like Drew says: no printing tickets in advance, no curb check, no kiosk printing. Like s.m.h. above, I used to get a bit of the runaround, too, when I would ask what the problem was. They usually just smiled and tried to skirt the question and say, "I'm sorry, it'll just be a second-no big deal, I just have to check something here with my supervisor for a second." Sometimes they walk away and come back. Sometimes they get on the phone. Sometimes they just type something into their computer. I finally pushed it, too, and was told the real reason I was being held up. But they will most definitely never tell you how you got on the list. They probably don't know. After that if I were flying with a friend, I would explain it to them loud enough for others around to hear. That didn't seem to go over well. I always felt folks with badges closing in on me. Any more I just walk up to the counter, put my driver's license and passport on the counter, turn politely away while they do their thing, then smile and say thanks when they give me my ticket a few minutes later.

    July 16, 2008 at 11:39 pm |
  20. Rose

    Has anyone ever asked Senator McCain if he believes the President must obey and faithfully execute our laws, and whether he believes cruel treatment makes people tell the truth?

    July 16, 2008 at 11:37 pm |
  21. Azeez

    T. NELSON: Be carefully what you wish... With this administration anything is possible...

    July 16, 2008 at 11:32 pm |
  22. Caitlin

    I'd rather be stopped every time that I go to get on a flight than have another plane crash. Yes, it is inconvenient, but we haven't had another plane crash due to terrorism, and if we had, people would complain that security should be stronger and that the government failed.

    It's a no win situation.

    July 16, 2008 at 11:28 pm |
  23. Azeez

    I think it is very honorable for Senetor McCain to speak @ the NAACP... He is not getting my vote but new found repect...

    July 16, 2008 at 11:25 pm |
  24. WM

    Honestly though, if the FBI has anyone on the list, there must be some reason for them being on there. Everyone should juss but smart americans and do their best to follow all the law's in the United States, hard to do at time for everyone, includeing me but thats not the issues. The issue is honest hard workin americans are being flagged simply because of their names, Knowing that simply do what you have to to prove your innocent

    July 16, 2008 at 11:20 pm |
  25. Mark

    This is the governments attempt to cover all it's bases by adding every name that may be remotely associated with a "terrorist group." Got to give them credit....they are at least trying to look competent.!

    July 16, 2008 at 11:19 pm |
  26. T. NELSON

    Maybe they will end up putting EVERYONE on the watch list and then begin charging a fee to process your application to be removed...

    Wouldn't surprise me!

    T. Nelson
    Hopkins, Minnesota

    July 16, 2008 at 11:16 pm |
  27. J Mac

    Anderson, Tell your associate on the TSA list not to feel like the Lone Ranger, I too am on "THE" List. Oh Mr. Cooper did I mention what I do for a living? I have been a flight attendant for the past 34 years with 3 different airlines, yet I am on the list. I find it funny, I have keys to the airport operations area, I have keys to the aircraft drug box / medical kit, and feed the pilots but God forbid I want to travel somewhere on my days off as an airline employee.

    July 16, 2008 at 11:04 pm |
  28. Debbie Power

    I would be very interested to know if any other Drew Griffins have
    encountered this outrageous problem. Maybe you could ask any
    other Drew Griffins to contact you if they HAVE or HAVE NOT
    experienced this situation. I'm sure there is more than one Drew
    Griffin in this world.

    July 16, 2008 at 11:00 pm |
  29. Russ

    I think this form of treatment is rediculous. I went to the Bush Int airport last year to go to California and had to go through a long and inconveniant process with the rudest people working in the TSA. Yup, my name was also on the list. I believe the TSA is becoming incredibly rude and demanding due to the fact that us americans put wayyyy to much trust into them. Thus making them feel like they are the kings (and queens) of travel.

    July 16, 2008 at 10:54 pm |
  30. Eric

    I have found out that I was on the watch list only when I was in china. The airline counter worker got on a phone and walked away from me to behind a door. Only ten minutes latter did she return to tell oh sorry your name is on the tsa watch list but it not you for wrong skin color. At the american airport they just left and did not tell me why only to come back with my passport and a supervisor who then let me have my tickets. What a pain and has to be worst for others.

    July 16, 2008 at 10:54 pm |
  31. Karen

    I totally sympathize with Drew. I've also spent time on the watch list. There was a period of time when I was flying a number of one way flights and making a lot of changes to my flights so apparently I caught someone's attention. I fly every single week for business so I understand the extreme inconvenience. And yes, there is extreme frustration too when you know that it's not really "you" on the list. For over a year I dealt with it until I was told about the form that can be filled out via the TSA's web site. This is the same form that Drew apparently filled out and filed. However, in my case it worked. After a number of weeks I received a letter from the TSA stating that there might have been a problem and IF there was a problem the airlines have been notified to make the necessary corrections. That was over a year ago and I have not had to deal with the inconvenience even once since. So, although I am no fan of the TSA and their procedures, filling out the form actually can work. Good luck Drew.

    July 16, 2008 at 10:54 pm |
  32. Andy griffin

    I share the same or similar name as Drew Griffin, my name is Andrew Griffin. I also have been told I am on the watch list for over a year and a half. I fly several times a month and it is very frustrating. I completed all the TSA paper work last year and received a letter saying that I have done so and that I am clear. That was over a year ago and I still get held up almost every time I fly. I tried to work with Southwest as I fly that airline most often. It took several corespondences but know I have been able to check in online for some flights. US air and Continental still require me to check in at the counter. Continental also puts me thru additional security checks.
    Even though I completed all the checks and submitted all the documents to the TSA the airlines say that makes no differnce to them. My name is flagged for them and I can not bypass the additional security checks

    July 16, 2008 at 10:50 pm |
  33. Kaffee

    I'm a Pakistani. I guess I'll just apply to medical schools where I can drive to for interviews.

    July 16, 2008 at 10:50 pm |
  34. James

    I have a simple solution... Protest this garbage by refusing to fly anywhere.

    July 16, 2008 at 10:44 pm |
  35. Annie Kate

    So if we click on that link do we get to join Drew on the list ? I think I'll just listen to Drew's report.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 16, 2008 at 10:33 pm |
  36. Darin

    Does it really matter if we watch for terrorist when the FAA is looking at the TEENAGERS comming out of high school to be air traffic controllers. Reagan fired the air traffic controllors and set a lot of standards in how to lose the trust of americans and those jobs have been troubled every since... Don't look up or down??

    July 16, 2008 at 10:30 pm |
  37. s.m.h

    I work for TSA-Atl and i can attest first hand about being the "terror watch list"..i have an Arabic name and i have traveled few times in the last past couple of years and each time i have been held at the ticket counter before being issued a plane ticket because they told me my name was "flagged"

    They tried to pretend it was something else at first then after i questioned them about the hold up they finally told me the chocking news.

    July 16, 2008 at 10:18 pm |