Passengers on United States flights are screened against a government list of known or suspected terrorists, but many of the 44,000 names reveal glaring weaknesses in the secret document, according to a television channel.
In an investigation to be aired on Sunday on CBS News channel's 60 Minutes programme, it was revealed that the list included foreign leaders who seem to pose little risk, infamous suspects who are either dead or in custody and some extremely common names.
Yet some obvious suspects are left off because the list itself could betray secrets.
The list includes the world's most-wanted man and Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, with the alternate spelling Usama. The list names Bolivian President Evo Morales, a leftist who led a movement of indigenous coca growers opposed to US policy, and Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
Ousted Iraq President Saddam Hussein is on the list as well though he has been in US custody since December 2003. Most of the 19 Al-Qaeda operatives who died in the September 11, 2001, suicide strikes against New York and Washington remain on the list.
Startlingly common names -- CBS specifies Gary Smith, John Williams and Robert Johnson among them -- are also on the list, consistently causing major delays for innocent travellers trying to board planes.
Among the obvious names left off the list were a suspected Iranian assassin and the 11 people arrested in August in an alleged plot to blow up airliners, despite being under surveillance by British and US security agencies for more than a year.
The CBS report described the list as a 'data dump' from US government security agencies.