Briefly Detained in Turkey
November 28, 2011 7:30 AM   Subscribe

I flew back to the states from Istanbul yesterday and was detained briefly after my name apparently triggered a security warning. My question is, how do I find out what kind of warning is being issued. I assume it was the Turkish governments watch list because after sometime had passed, the authorities came over, returned my passport and told me they had called a US govt agency and I was free to board the plane.

I don't think this was a random security check because there were hundreds of people that went right through including my husband. This was at the point of handing over my passport, not in an x-ray line. Around 4 people came over to stare at the computer screen where my name had popped up and there was a lot of discussion between the security personnel as well as over the phone.

It seemed like a big deal and they had me and my husband move to a separate area while they kept my passport. I do have a last name that sounds very middle eastern but jeez, it's Turkey. It's a primarily Islamic nation.

Any thoughts about researching what went on here?
posted by adverse_conditions to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total)
You could check here to see if your name is with the US dept homeland security.

If it was a Turkey watch list not sure why they would get an okay with the US to allow you to board the plane.
posted by 2manyusernames at 7:47 AM on November 28, 2011

It's not that your name sounds Islamic, it's that it's close enough to the name of someone who is associated with terrorist or other criminal activity.

A lot of the watch lists are available online. Not sure about Turkey's.
posted by bunderful at 7:51 AM on November 28, 2011

Same thing happened to me, flying from Istanbul to the US a couple years ago. Except I'm Canadian, with a completely English name etc. Still no idea what happened or why, but you're not alone!
posted by hasna at 9:45 AM on November 28, 2011

Your name may be close to someone's on the No Fly List. This could affect travel to the US just as much as travel from. Although if this were the case I would expect that it would have happened to you more than once.

(I have a friend who has a common hispanic name that happens to be the same as that of an international criminal. He gets stopped every time, and listens to a bored TSA guy say "we know you're not him, he would never fly, but we have to check anyway.")
posted by Wretch729 at 10:29 AM on November 28, 2011

Having worked in the airline industry for awhile, and since the airline handles a certain portion of security aside from TSA or customs so I dealt with similar situations . . . you'll never know what the warning was. As bunderful pointed out--assuming you're not a terrorist/criminal--it's overwhelmingly likely that you have a name similar to the guy they're actually looking for and they were likely comparing birthdates or other info.

Unfortunately for you there's not much you can do. The best advice I gave/heard for those in your situation is to book your ticket with your middle name (as it appears on your passport), so as to separate you from whatever algorithm found your name to begin with.

Awhile back you could, in theory, have your name removed from the watch list/no fly list (or whatever it's currently called) . . . I never knew anyone who successfully accomplished this.
posted by eggman at 10:31 AM on November 28, 2011

This also happened to me last year in Turkey with my completely Anglo name. I am American and was flying into England. I wonder if they might be extra strict there or something.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:49 PM on November 28, 2011

This also happened to me in Turkey with an American-(possibly vaguely German-)sounding name. This has only ever happened to me in Turkey, and it happened every single time I crossed the Turkish border during my Middle East stay (about 6 times). I never figured out exactly what the situation was, but it's interesting that others have had the same situation.
posted by UniversityNomad at 8:55 PM on November 29, 2011

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