The Modern Blacklist

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (which is separate from the national group) has an important report out, The OFAC List: How a Treasury Department Watchlist Ensnares Everyday Consumers. (You can view the whole 262-page, three columns per page, OFAC list at the US Treasury.)

The report details how a program that was originally designed to disrupt the finances of terrorists and other hostile foreign groups is now (due to name collisions) blocking the routine financial activities of innocent US persons with the misfortune to having similar names, or the bad luck to have one of the banned persons erroneously linked to them on a credit report.

The good news is that, unlike the no-fly list, the so-called no-buy list is public.

The bad news is that the criteria for getting on it are pretty vague, and there's no clear way for a person who feels they don't belong on it to get themselves off it. And for innocent people who happen to have the name “Michael Dooley” or any of the other names or aliases listed in the report, they are going to find that their lives get increasingly difficult as more and more employers, car dealers, mortgage brokers, and even retailers, start checking against this list.

PS. It's possible I'll be on Marketplace (NPR) this afternoon discussing this report. There are a ton of issues, and I doubt they'll use more than a snippet.

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One Response to The Modern Blacklist

  1. wcw says:

    1) Fix your title. There is a superfluous ‘n’ therein.

    2) I always though having a surname with 7 consonants and 2 vowels (really) would be useful. Ha, ha! (N. Muntz, whose 4-1 bests my ratio)

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