Erich Scherfen served in the Army Infantry for 13 years as a helicopter pilot, but a year after he traded his guns for a commercial airline pilot badge, he found himself on the opposite side of national security.
For reasons that are still unclear to him, Scherfen, a Gulf War veteran and a Muslim, was added to the terror watch listed in April of 2008.
"It was a shock," he told Congress.org. "To think I had flown helicopters loaded with rockets at one time for the U.S., and then was listed."
The terror watch list was designed to prevent attacks by keeping a close watch on suspected terrorists. But some critics question how well it is being managed by intelligence officials, arguing it has too many "false positives" like Scherfen.
Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said federal agents are biased toward adding people to the list and against removing those who are later found to have been included mistakenly.
"Nobody ever lost a job from putting someone on the list — even if they're innocent," he said. "But God forbid you don't put someone on the list and they are guilty. You could lose your job."