I travel from the US to Canada occasionally (about once per year on average) with my family. We are all US citizens and travel with US passports. Every time we re-enter the United States, I am given extra scrutiny.

Most recently, we used an automated check-in procedure at the airport. These are terminals where you scan your passport & fill out a customs declaration online and it prints a receipt which you take to the customs agent. When I got my receipt, it had a big "X" printed on it and we were directed to a line to talk to an agent.

In the past, I've had questions directed at me or my family: "Have you ever been to New York?", "Do you own any firearms?", and once "Where is your daddy?" directed at my then 4 year old son. The agents also seem to examine my photo & my face more closely than the other members of my family.

We get through customs OK, but it gives me a some anxiety. I suspect that there's someone out there with the same name (I have a pretty common name) who is on a "no fly" list or something.

My question is this: is there any way to find out what they're looking for when they scan my passport & see my name? Like a Freedom of Information request or something? I know I could/should ask when I'm in the line, but as I said, it makes me pretty anxious.

  • 8
    I don't believe there's any way to get at why you're being selected, but DHS's Redress program should fix it in the future (assuming it's just a name issue and you're not actually the person they're concerned about).
    – waiwai933
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 16:28
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    Check the Interpol website for wanted people, search for your name. I have found 29 people with a similar names to mine! (interpol.int/notice/search/wanted) Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 17:44
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    Quick reminder: It should be assumed that if you request your file, and one didn't exist, one will promptly be created.
    – keshlam
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 0:22
  • 1
    @keshlam So you just have to try again... easy! ;) Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 9:29
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    @smci The point is, to ask the CBP for a release of data on yourself under FOIA, if you don't have a file, you will have a file made. Of course, it appears that this user HAS a file already... or is being mistaken for someone who does. (and my basic point was you chastised keshlam unfairly, in my opinion.) His comment was a fair comment, clarifying a point that the OP may not have considered.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 16:35

2 Answers 2


Check out Read Your Own DHS Travel Dossier (archive.org). The *.doc files don't work anymore but the *.txt files do. It's basically a template letter requesting the information they have on you, pursuant to the Privacy Act.

Check out Criminal History Summary Checks on fbi.gov as well. That's FBI / DOJ and not TSA / DHS, but it might give you some insight none-the-less. Get My FBI File has additional information.

Good luck!


It might be very difficult to get off one of those lists though. There's a very recent court ruling, regarding a case where someone was placed on a nofly list by accident and wanted to get off that list, which was way more complicated then it sounds. The court file may hold some leads for you. Also see this news article discussing up the problems.

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