Megan McArdle has an interesting take on this Washington Post article discussing the difficulties regular, non-terrorist Americans have in getting their names removed from government watchlists. Both McArdle's post and the Post article are well worth reading, particularly if you're troubled that the government shares its terror suspect lists with … credit reporting agencies.
I'd like to expand on McArdle's point (that too much terror protection can be a bad thing) by observing that the problems of incentivization she addresses don't apply just to the war on terror. It's certainly true that the terrorcrat faces the potential of massive penalties (his job, a guilty conscience, and eternal humiliation) in the event that the wrong terrorist isn't caught. He also faces the certainty of minor penalties in the event superiors, budgeters, or the public perceive him to be underzealous. ("Why aren't you doing your job?") Whereas when an innocent appears on a government watchlist, the terrorcrat who doesn't help him faces merely … a guilty conscience. While most public servants are good people with a conscience, a conscience isn't enough.
The problem of a "stacked deck" that McArdle complains of, though, applies to all policemen through all time. I'm not aware of any government, ever, where the incentives and disincentives for law enforcement have encouraged giving the potentially innocent the benefit of the doubt, or for that matter promptly assisting ordinary people whose names wind up on the wrong lists. At worst, we have the Soviet Union, where the police gave themselves quotas to arrest lest someone think they weren't busy enough and needed to be purged, but even the most liberal societies, like Los Angeles, are rife with tales of abuse.
It's something to think about the next time any politician assures you he plans to do more to protect you against … whatever.