Sandra Cortez’s Ordeal: Once You’re On the 'List,'
You Can’t Get Off
William Norman Grigg
Recently by William Norman Grigg: Obamacare
and the Revenge of the 'Secret Constitution'
Cortez, born in Chicago sixty-eight years ago, has never set
foot outside the United States. She has no criminal record, and
an exemplary credit history. Yet she discovered, through an error
in her credit report, that her name was in a terrorist "watch
list" – and she apparently has no way to remove it.
In March 2005,
Cortez – who at the time was living in Denver, Colorado – attempted
to buy a vehicle from the John Elway Subaru dealership. "I thought
I would be driving my new car back to work after lunch," Cortez
recalled. "I couldn't imagine what would happen next."
fact that Cortez had a 761 credit score and money for a down-payment,
the dealership’s manager balked at the sale after running Cortez’s
credit history through the TransUnion credit reporting service.
Rather than closing the deal on the $18,000 Subaru Forrester, the
manager – his face drawn into a "stern look" – assailed
the puzzled woman with a series of "strange questions":
"Were you born in the United States? Have you always lived in the
U.S.? When is the last time you left the country?"
had notified the dealership that Cortez’s name was on the Treasury
Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control list owing to its
resemblance to a "specially designated individual" from
Colombia named Sandra Cortez Quintera.
This was obviously
a coincidence involving a very common Latino name (it’s akin to
the incidental similarity between, say, a U.S.-born woman named
Margaret Lindsay, and an Irish terrorism suspect named Maggie Lindsay
O’Reilly). However, under the so-called USA PATRIOT Act, businesses
such as the John Elway Subaru dealership in Denver face draconian
fines and prison sentences for extending credit to anyone suspected
of terrorist connections (unless, of course, they are connected
to terrorist groups currently
favored by Washington, such
as the Iranian Islamo-Marxist cult called the MEK). Rather
than selling Cortez the car, the dealership detained her at the
office while it consulted with the FBI.
Cortez was able to buy the car, and the dealership – which had been
caught in the same vise – offered a sincere and extravagant apology.
When she contacted TransUnion, the agency insisted that the notifications
had been removed from her file. Nonetheless, in June 2006, the red
flags re-appeared when Cortez attempted to rent an apartment. In
fact, the notifications materialize every time Cortez has to conduct
business that involves credit.
In a 2010 ruling,
the Third Circuit Court of Appeals noted that "the alerts often
reduced Cortez to tears. The alerts also caused Cortez to lose weight
and they interfered with her ability to sleep to such an extent
that she resorted to medication."
lengthy legal struggle, Cortez
was awarded $750,000 in damages by a jury. The government arbitrarily
reduced that award to $150,000, and then stole roughly a third of
that in taxes. Most infuriating is the fact that the Regime still
refuses to take Cortez’s name off the list.
has a lot of unwanted company.
In 2006, several
federal air marshals disclosed to Denver’s ABC affiliate that
they were required to submit at least one "Surveillance Detection
Report" (or SDR) each month – or lose out on bonuses, promotions,
and other perks. As a result, one marshal explained, "Innocent passengers
are being entered into an international intelligence database as
suspicious persons, acting in a suspicious manner on an aircraft
... and they did nothing wrong."
Don Strange, former agent in charge of air marshals in Atlanta who
was fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on this policy,
being the subject of an SDR has serious repercussions: "They
could be placed on a watch list. They could wind up on databases
that identify them as potential terrorists or a threat to an aircraft."
Thanks to the
all-encompassing nature of federal databases, and the seamless integration
of the "Homeland Security" apparatus, every police officer
and sheriff’s deputy has the ability to ruin the life of any Mundane
who displays something other than instant and unconditional submission.
This was demonstrated in the case of Los Angeles resident Shawn
Nee, an amateur photographer, who was
accosted by sheriff’s deputies while taking photos of subway
was doing nothing illegal, and the deputy had no business harassing
him, the shutterbug quite properly told the officer to mind his
I’ll just submit your name to TLO [the
Terrorism Liaison Officer program]," replied the deputy.
"Every time your driver’s license gets scanned, every time
you take a plane, any time you go on any type of public transit
system where they look at your identification, you’re going to be
stopped. You will be detained. You’ll be searched. You will be on
the FBI’s hit list."
that uniformed bully’s smug extortion threat can be heard a vague
but unmistakable echo of the scene from Dr.
Zhivago in which the KGB general played by Alec Guinness
informs a dissident: "Your attitude has been noticed."
think if you pay your bills on time, you will be OK in the credit
world," observes Cortez, who now resides in La Mesa, California.
"But that's not how it always works. And sometimes, the mistakes
can be paralyzing" – especially when they are made by entirely
unaccountable people who treat the rest of us like inmates in a
from Republic Magazine
with permission from the author.
Norman Grigg [send him mail]
publishes the Pro
Libertate blog and hosts the Pro
Libertate radio program.
© 2012 William Norman Grigg
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