June 09, 2003
MORE HOMELAND SECURITY PROBLEMS:
As the war on terrorism spurs U.S. intelligence agencies to constantly expand aviation watch lists, many airline-reservation systems rely on name- searching software based on a 120-year-old indexing system that mistakes the similar spelling or sound of innocent passengers' surnames for those of terrorists.
The result: Thousands of travelers have been flagged at airports for additional searches and police questioning -- while critics say real terrorists could slip through undetected. . . .
The problem, critics say, is that the English-based name-search software used by airline-reservation databases is easily flummoxed by Arabic, Asian and other names that, when converted from their native script to the Roman alphabet, can have hundreds of legitimate different spellings.
Still a few bugs in the system.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Meanwhile, Carl Hiaasen outlines more dumbness.