The incident points up some of the real problems facing security personnel as they try to enforce the "no-fly" list. One issue is spelling; many foreign names have several different transliterations into English. And the sheer size of the list is daunting; thousands of names have been added in the last couple months, says one government official, bringing the total up to more than 19,000 names to look out for. That makes it difficult for airlines and government agencies to check all passengers. Within the past six months, several people on the no fly list have been mistakenly allowed to fly.
Still, the TSA is learning. It recently acknowledged that a Federal Air Marshall, unable to fly for weeks when his name was mistakenly put on the "no-fly" list, was in fact not a threat, and removed his name from the list.