Australian Man Can't Get Parts Because His Super Generic Name Is On A US Terrorist Watchlist

from the check-his-locker dept

Let me let you into the helmet for a moment. Given all the nonsense surrounding the various United States alphabet agencies and their various watchlists, I’ve grown thankful that I have a fairly uncommon name. Between the potential for antagonistic abuse by scorned lovers, the opportunity for clerical errors to result in life-changing refusals of admittance to the United States, and the general crap-show that is the no fly list, it’s somewhat nice to have a rather unique identifier. It almost cancels out the mispronunciations, lacking nicknames like “Geigner-counter”, and seriously non-stop questions about what life is like running the Treasury Department. Almost.

But stories like this one offered by reader Richard really cement my gratitude for my evil-sounding German surname. I could, as this story goes, have an incredibly generic name and live in a foreign country and find myself having to wade through all kinds of red tape just to get a few electronics parts. This is the story of David Jones and his quest to get a couple of parts from a local distributor in Australia.

Through the website I ordered some local in-stock parts from the Element 14 warehouse in Sydney, for pickup at the trade counter. Usually they are very efficient and have the parts ready for collection before I have time to drive there. But this day I gave them a few hours extra. When I got there my parts weren’t ready and it took them a bit of time to figure out that my order had been placed “on hold”.

But they enquired further with someone else and the word came back that it wasn’t the parts that had been flagged, it was my NAME that was flagged. And they said it was a US government watch list of some description. I was stunned, and it seemed like they didn’t quite understand why I was so shocked at this. Because, you know, the whole world has to just sit by and let the US government dictate everything at will.

Flagging David Jones? What could go wrong? I hear he has a really terrifying locker and was part of a terrible Beatles knock-off band a couple of decades ago. On the other hand, harassing foreign citizens with common names out of an over-abundance of name-recognizing caution is probably going to make everyone look foolish, on top of all the work it certainly must create. On top of that, the helpful employees of Element 14 were confident they could just work around the flag to begin with. So the efforts aren’t just silly, they’re futile on top of it. Oh, US government, don’t ever change.

Not that Mr. Jones was as amused as I, of course.

So let’s see if I have this straight – An Australian subsidiary, owned by a UK parent company, listed on the UK stock exchange, has an ordering system that automatically matches generic names against some US Government watch list, and flags those orders and puts them on hold, for parts that are already stocked in Australia, are likely not made in the US, and likely have come from the main UK warehouse. Call me stupid, but something doesn’t seem right with that…

No, Mr. Jones, we don’t think you’re stupid. We think you’re cunning, an evil mastermind terrorist from Australia, because we’ve seen so many of those. Or maybe it’s one of the other bazillion David Jones’ plotting around the world. You can’t expect us to know. It’s not like we’re reading everyone’s emails or something…

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Comments on “Australian Man Can't Get Parts Because His Super Generic Name Is On A US Terrorist Watchlist”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Mar 3rd, 2014 @ 3:39pm

I’m not going to try to excuse my government’s behavior. But shouldn’t you be just as angry with the Australian Gov?
Don’t take excuses like “we were pressured by the USA” it’s a load of crap used to deflect blame… your Gov is a willing participant in this BS.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Mar 3rd, 2014 @ 3:39pm

“But shouldn’t you be just as angry with the Australian Gov?”

Why should he be? Unless the article’s missing something major, this was a retailer following procedure from its UK head office, not a Australian government order.

“it’s a load of crap used to deflect blame”

What’s more of a load of crap to deflect blame? Correctly blaming the instigators of this crap, or trying to move attention to those who are following it? The latter may share some blame, but blaming those actually responsible isn’t a bad thing. The worst that can be said about the Australian government here is that if they’re responsible, they’re only following the rules set by the US to allow free trade with them. In other words, the US are still ultimately to blame.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Mar 3rd, 2014 @ 3:39pm

The aussie govt has absolutely nothing to do wt this, instead its the idiocy of an Australian supplier purchasing from a US company having to somehow conform to the US ideals of weirdness thinking ONLY they can create electronic components that could be ever used in military grade technologies.

Interestingly I can absolutely guarantee that the parts bought would of NOT been manufactured int he USA and most likely shipped DIRECTLY from SE Asia.

Also Element 14 has subsequently allowed the sale (even though they had the stock already and had passed through Australian custom controls)due to them doing more due diligence. Interestingly under Aust Consumer law (and defamation) Mr Jones would of had a very good case against them if they had refused the sale no matter what US law they were stupidly trying to honour.

Furthermore David Jones is a very common name, even more so it is the full name of a MAJOR department store created in 1838 and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange similar to Macey’s and with the same ubiquitous presence and brand knowledge in Australia. If you don’t know of the name in Australia you have basically been living in a cave.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You youngsters don't know dip

The first time I heard The Monkees’ version of “Daydream Believer”, I didn’t know who it was. I was only familiar with Anne Murray’s version and didn’t know another one existed. I thought, “Who is that and what are they doing to Anne Murray’s song?! This is a terrible travesty!”.

John says:

David Jones the retailer

The not so funny part is David Jones is also a large Australian retailer.

How they get on ordering products? Maybe they are the terrorist organisation. Their prices are certainly criminal. 🙂

I wonder what would happen if this guy tried to fly. If he is on that list, he most likely is on the no fly list.

John Fenderson (profile) says:


My actual name (shocker! It’s not John Fenderson!) is very, very common and I was hit with this problem when trying to fly a couple years back. Fortunately, my name wasn ‘t on the Do Not Fly list — instead, it was on some other, less intensive, watch list. Nonetheless, it temporarily prevented me from checking in for my flight.

The lady at the airline counter took my ticket and ID and disappeared for a while, then came back and made me promise cross-my-heart that I was Not The Man They Were Watching.

The whole thing seemed ridiculous at the time. Poor David Jones, though… he doesn’t seem to get the option to pinky-swear that he’s not a terrorist.

Ven says:

Re: Yup

As a James Morgan I have the same problem flying, but I’ve found that when buying tickets if I include my middle initial then I don’t get flagged.

This usually results in a boarding pass that lists my name as JAMESM MORGAN, so I’m a bit suspicious that it may be that my first name is not listed as James that gets my passed the list and not any intentional feature. Just don’t let the TSA know, they might fix it.

mariush (profile) says:

The list

Dave Jones mentioned in the forum that the name was in a system called “restricted party screening” :

While Element14 probably had no obligation to use it, they probably accepted to use it in order to be able to distribute certain parts from some US manufacturers, or in order to sell parts in US.

The system however is very dumb and just matches anyone by name or surname, without considering location, ethnicity, age … so a David L. Jones can match Dave Jones and so on.

shanen (profile) says:

Which of the nine musicians from Wikipedia’s giant disambiguation page do you mean? Probably the Monkey, per the earlier comment?

Actually, I just wanted to note that I’ve never seen such an impression disambiguation page. They have a deep hierarchy of related articles and categories just under the human references there. On my google results for “david jones”, this page was only the 3rd among 5 Wikipedia results.

By the way, remember “All your attentions are belongs to the google.” True corporate motto.

Anonymous Coward says:

Cannot Refuse Service

Australia has laws that make it an offense to refuse service or sell stuff to someone, the staff at the Sydney element14 shop new that the items in question were not on on any restricted or banned list, (e.g. beer, illegal to sell to totally intoxicated people) & the government had not recently gazetted the items, so the staff were required to sell the items. However, now this flaw in US secret lists has been found, our government will bend over backwards to accommodate those U.S government shitheads.

so long consumer rights laws

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Roll 'em

I think DHS should just roll the twenty most common given names (James, John, Robert, Michael, William, David, Richard, Charles, Joseph, Thomas, Mary, Patricia, Linda, Barbara, Elizabeth, Jennifer, Maria, Susan, Margaret and Dorothy) with the twenty most common surnames (Smith, Johnson, Williams, Jones, Brown, Davis, Miller, Wilson, Moore, Taylor, Anderson, Thomas, Jackson, White, Harris, Martin, Thompson, Garcia, Martinez and Robinson) and add those 400 names to the list.

That should cover, I don’t know, what, half a billion people worldwide? Maybe then enough people would turn this into an election issue to finally get these idiotic lists burned.

These lists are the exact opposite of security anyway. Security is something you have to think about…actually use your brain. These lists are nothing but a recklessly moronic bureaucratic method to used to make brainless decisions.

Such as that 8-month-old David Jones can’t fly. (Happy Barney voice: “Well [Duh!] of course he can’t board, he’s prolly gots a dangerous load in his diaper!”) Meanwhile, the real terrorist David Jones boards a plane–carrying his knife, gun and bomb–under his fake-ID-backed alias, Adam Brown. (Same voice: “Well [Duh!] shure he gets to board…his name ain’t on the list!”)

Even my cat uses a better system than this.

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