Friday, October 17, 2008

More Terror Watch List Glitches?!

Shortly after I wrote Terror Watch List Glitches, more disturbing reports about problems with "terror-watch-list"-related systems started popping up. Most were saying that the expected upgrades (worth half-billion dollars!) might not correct the problems and might even create new ones. All the fuss seemed to be about "project RAILHEAD", which is supposed to replace Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE).

I refrained from publishing this post the very next day. There were tons of articles that simply amounted to a bunch of snippets from a congressional memo slapped together, so I decided not to add my voice to the general noise. Instead, I took some time to learn more about TIDE and RAILHEAD, as well as to analyze those claims from a purely technical perspective, leaving out the politics.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Terror Watch List Glitches

A few days ago, CNN showed yet another Drew Griffin's report about "terror watch list" glitches[1] (UPDATE: the original video seems to be not available anymore, but the script is still there; also, there is a copy on YouTube - WARNING: there is some wacky message appended at the end of the video, but the clip itself does not appear to have been altered).

Let politicians argue about who is to blame for this mess. I am going to focus exclusively on its technical aspects the way I understand them. Of course, it is not easy to tell how a system works and what may be wrong with it when all technical details are classified. Still, based on the information from public sources, I am going to try to answer the following questions:
  • How does a law-abiding citizen get on the no-fly list?
  • Why is it impossible to get removed from it?
  • Why is it so easy to find ways around the no-fly list?
  • Is it going to get any better?