Sandra Cortez’s Ordeal

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Sandra 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.”

Despite the 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?”

TransUnion 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.

Eventually, 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."

Following a 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.

Sandra Cortez 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."

According to 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 turnstiles.

Because Nee was doing nothing illegal, and the deputy had no business harassing him, the shutterbug quite properly told the officer to mind his own business.

"You know, 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."

In 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."

“Most people 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 prison society.

Reprinted from Republic Magazine with permission from the author.