A LEAK of the TSA’s “No Fly” list has sparked major security fears, as a Russian arms dealer and IRA members were among the names mentioned.
The names of thousands of people from the US government’s Terrorist Screening Database were found last week on an unsecured server found by a security researcher.
The server, run by US airline CommuteAir, remained unreachable on the public internet, giving a Swiss hacker known as maia arson crimew the ability to find it.
A large amount of corporate information was exposed, including the private information of nearly 1,000 CommuteAir employees.
However, a text file called “NoFly.csv” was also discovered, which contains the names of people who are not allowed to fly because they have suspected or known ties to terrorist organizations.
According to crimew, the list contained more than 1.5 million entries, including names and dates of birth.
Multiple aliases and alternative spellings of names were also found on the list.
Notorious figures such as recently released arms dealer Viktor Bout were on the list, along with 16 possible aliases for him.
According to crimew, one of the individuals was listed as eight years old based on their year of birth.
Several entries on the list were names that appeared to be of Arab or Middle Eastern origin.
“Looking at the files, it just kind of confirmed a lot of the things that I, and probably everyone, more or less suspected in terms of the biases in that list,” Crimew told Insider.
“If you just scroll through, you’ll see that almost every name is Middle Eastern.”
However, Spanish- and Anglican-sounding names also appeared.
Several names contained aliases that were common misspellings or slightly different versions of their names.
“I just think it’s crazy how big that Terrorism Screening Database is and yet there are still very clear trends towards almost exclusively Arabic and Russian sounding names in the million entries,” crimew said.
Hina Shamsi, director of the National Security Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said Muslims and people of Arab or Middle Eastern and South Asian descent were disproportionately targeted for watchlisting in the US.
“Sometimes it’s people who disagree or who are seen as unpopular views. We have also seen that journalists are on the watch list.”
The No Fly List has been criticized by privacy and civil experts, and the ACLU has even successfully sued to allow US citizens to challenge their listing.
However, Shamsi said more work needs to be done to improve transparency about the list.
“It’s already a huge and bloated system, and growth is exactly the kind of thing that happens when you have a vague and overbroad system of what is essentially government surveillance, based on suspicion and without due process,” she said.
“If the government wants to use watchlists, it should at least have limited and specific public criteria [for entry] and apply strict public procedures for reviewing, updating and removing questionable listings.”
Created under the George W. Bush administration, the list began as a small list of people barred from commercial flights.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the list expanded greatly, along with an increase in anti-Muslim discrimination and hate crimes across the country, according to the Justice Department.
The FBI identifies listings as people who “may pose a threat to civil aviation or national security.”
The US Sun has contacted the TSA for comment.