The Office of Foreign Asset Control's list of "specially designated nationals" is a list of people who might be terrorists. Or might have the same names as terrorists. Or might sound like the same name as a terrorist. Or might sound like a name that a terrorist might make up, but hasn't.
The list is 250 pages long. If you do business with a person on the list, you can pay $10 million in fines and go to jail for 30 years. "Doing business" can be as simple as selling one of those people a sandwich. Not an anthrax sandwich -- like a roast beef on rye.
So now apartment brokers, lenders, and even car dealers are using the blacklist to control whom they lend to. If your name could conceivably be bent to fit that list, get ready to spend a long, hard time convincing some terrified bureaucrat that you're not actually Saddam Hussein's deposed lieutenant, snuck into America to buy a Toyota.
Tom Kubbany is neither a terrorist nor a drug trafficker, has average credit and has owned homes in the past, so the Northern California mental-health worker was baffled when his mortgage broker said lenders were not interested in him. Reviewing his loan file, he discovered something shocking. At the top of his credit report was an OFAC alert provided by credit bureau TransUnion that showed that his middle name, Hassan, is an alias for Ali Saddam Hussein, purportedly a "son of Saddam Hussein."Link (via Schneier)
The record is not clear on whether Ali Saddam Hussein was a Hussein offspring, but the OFAC list stated he was born in 1980 or 1983. Kubbany was born in Detroit in 1949.
Update: Ken sez, "Here's the publicly downloadable list of bad names, available in PDF, ASCII, CSV and XML in various compression formats for different operating systems (Win, Mac, Linux)."
Update 2: The Consumerist did a great piece on this list in January
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