ALEX CHADWICK, host:
From NPR News, it's DAY TO DAY.
Mortgage companies and car dealers are checking government lists of suspected terrorists. And according to a new report, some of those companies are finding the names of people who don't belong on those lists. The report is out today from a San Francisco Bay area group called the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.
Marketplace's Janet Babin is here to tell us more. Janet, first of all, what are these lists? Who's on them?
Ms. JANET BABIN (Reporter, Marketplace): Well, this list is the OFAC list; that Is, the Office of Foreign Assets Control list. And on these lists are suspected lists - rather - is suspected terrorists and drug traffickers. Now, Alex, it's been around for a while but according to this report from the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, its uses have expanded.
And what's happening is that more and more private businesses - banks, mortgage companies, landlords - even employers - are using it and they're checking the names of applicants against it. And even if you end up with a partial match, you could end up getting denied a job or a loan just because your name incorrectly appears on this list.
Now, the Lawyers Committee report, apparently, it interviews some of these innocent people. One guy in the report from Northern California apparently couldn't get a mortgage because his middle name was Hassan(ph). And according to this list, Hassan is an alias used by Saddam Hussein's son. This man, born in Detroit in 1949, had all his papers. Clearly not Hussein offspring, but still he couldn't get a mortgage.
CHADWICK: So why are businesses using these lists now more than they have in the past?
Ms. BABIN: Right. According to the report it's because the U.S. government has been encouraging it and because it's the law really. The penalties of doing business with someone on the list can be pretty steep. So to be on the safe side, companies have just decided, hey, we're not going to sell to anyone with even a partial match to this terrorist watch list.
I spoke to Peter Swire about the report today. He's a law professor at Ohio State University. And he says that while the list uses have expanded, its safeguards have not. Swire points out that as a business owner you could be in big trouble even if you sold someone on this list, you know, a piece of candy.
Professor PETER SWIRE (Law, Ohio State University): There should be some clear exceptions for small transactions. There should be very clear ways for people to get themselves off the list or to make sure that the credit reporting companies don't falsely put them on the list.
Ms. BABIN: But right now, Alex, it's difficult if not impossible to get your name off of this OFAC list. It's kind of been left up to the businesses, but they just don't think it's worth it at this point to root out the false positives.
CHADWICK: And how do you find out if your name is on the list?
Ms. BABIN: Well, it's on the Internet. You just go to treasury.gov/ofac to find out if your name is on there.
CHADWICK: Thank you, Janet. Janet Babin of public radio's daily business show Marketplace, produced by American Public Media.
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