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George Bush fingered as terrorist by US feds ...

Well, maybe

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A Texas-based software company is offering a free tool allowing web users to check the likelihood of a particular name being flagged up by US government's Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), the body which operates the infamous "No Fly" list.

Lists of terrorist names have circulated widely in recent months, and it has also been reported by the Washington Post among others that various US agencies use the Soundex algorithm to assess names. Soundex-based software can be used to search a list of names – for example, an airline passenger list – and throw up possible matches. For example, "Osama" might be read by Soundex to match against "Osama", "Osamu" or "Osman." Thus, if any of those three names appeared on a passenger list – especially in combination with a surname such as "bin Laden" or "Binladen" the chance of the feds taking an interest would be high.

Engineers at S3 Matching Technologies have put together their own Soundex-based engine and loaded in "a compilation of the best available data regarding suspected and known terrorists. Publicly available terrorist names from various reliable government and non-governmental sources were merged to create a comprehensive list." They claim that their website list is constantly updated, just like the TSA's. Users can put in any name they like. If both first and last names throw up a red terrorist-related connection, S3 reckon there's a sporting chance that an individual with that name will be on the TSA's Watch List.

S3 are providing this service so as to publicise their alternative to Soundex, a proprietary system called TeraMatch. S3 naturally consider their kit to be much more accurate and less likely to throw up false positives.

El Reg has naturally tested a few obvious names on the site. Ones which throw up a both-names indication of terrorist links include "George Bush", "Tony Blair," and interestingly, "Gordon Brown", Britain's chancellor of the exchequer. Names which seem to be in the clear include "Oliver North" and "Hugo Chavez".

Either the terrorist conspiracy has gone deeper than anyone could have thought, or the American feds have gone loco, or perhaps the S3 guys are over-egging the pudding just a tad. Maybe all of the above. ®

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