Look at the high fashion, Italiana-guarded, Barbie-curl coiffed titular head of Libya. According to Wikipedia:
So, Gaddafi is a guy who wants everyone in the room to know who he is and that he is there. Were it up to him (and, unfortunately, oft times it is) trumpets would blare and pigeons would fly every time he made an entrance, and we can still document 30~40 different open source methods of spelling his name.
Because of the lack of standardization of transliterating written and regionally pronounced Arabic, Gaddafi's name has been transliterated in many different ways into English and other Latin alphabet languages. An article published in the London Evening Standard in 2004 lists a total of 37 spellings of his name, while a 1986 column by The Straight Dope quotes a list of 32 spellings known at the Library of Congress. This extensive confusion of naming was used as the subject for a segment of Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update in the early 1980s.
In 1986, Gaddafi reportedly responded to a Minnesota school's letter in English using the spelling "Moammar El-Gadhafi". The title of the homepage of algathafi.org reads "Welcome to the official site of Muammar Al Gathafi".
"Muammar Gaddafi" is the spelling used by Time magazine, BBC News, the majority of the British press and by the English service of Al-Jazeera. The Associated Press, CNN, and Fox News use "Moammar Gadhafi". The Edinburgh Middle East Report uses "Mu'ammar Qaddafi" and the U.S. Department of State uses "Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi". The Xinhua News Agency uses "Muammar Khaddafi" in its English reports.
Now suppose that you're just some schmuck that wants to infil the US--or US airspace, anyway--in order to blow up innocent civilians, cause significant property damage, and generally terrorize as much of the US population as you can. With a name like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, how many different spelling variations can you come up with in an effort to thwart the various and sundry bureaucracies charged with keeping your sorry ass out? Even if there were, for example, a couple of small irregularities between your hand-printed immigration card, and your passport, and your driver's license, and your visa card, and your actual visa, would an English-speaking official either notice or think it was significant? Suppose Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had had the mission to infiltrate the US and put boots on the ground for a period of time before executing his plan (like, say, spend some months in a Florida flight school before being ready or able to execute the mission)? If he could get into the US, he could drive from coast to coast, stopping at motels to rest or see the sights, without ever using the same spelling twice. Any bureaucracy, or any ad hoc conglomeration of bureaucracies ostensibly collaborating to catch the guy, suffers a workload that expands geometrically over space and time trying to track the guy down, and that's without him employing any other countermeasures than playing scrabble with his name.
All applications for non-immigrant visas (you can see one here) are written exclusively in English. In fact, the Visa application is topped with big red letters that say, in part,"Your answers must be in English and must use English characters." I can understand the philosophy that in order to come to the States, you should at least have enough facility with the language to fill out the paperwork. Of course, this is not the philosophy upon which DOS bases its requirement to actually fill out the form. Any non-English speaking individuals seeking to fill out a visa can go to the local Embassy or Consul and get assistance filling out the form. So, if your name originates from the Arabic alphabet (or the Cyrillic, or Kanji, or Hangul, or...), then your name in the English alphabet is pretty much whatever approximation you choose that more or less is phonetically close enough. Does this seem like an administrative weakness that can be exploited?
Arabic is tough to learn; to even be a competent "basic" speaker, you have to learn a whole new alphabet. The Army has a whole curriculum based off a transliterated English alphabet; the transliterated alphabet only aids in phonetic rote memorization. Even this many years after 9/11, it is probably too much to expect that our alphabet soup of bureaucracies would have enough competent Arabic linguists to manage even the "by exception" guys on various watch lists, let alone all the Arabic native speakers who come into contact, for whatever reason, with our US Government.
So, what if we had all applicants fill out a bubble sheet, like unto that which Americans fill out for any standardized academic test (e.g., the SAT), possibly linked in with some sort of biometrics, and that gets translated into a standardized bar code that code be scanned, databased, and disseminated electronically.Above is Gaddafi's name in such a standardized format.* It couldn't take too long to 'gin up some code that would enable us to digitally track his comings and goings in the US--I mean, if he's not allowed to pitch his big tent in Central Park. If every applicant/immigrant with a name not derived from the English alphabet used this, it would probably make everyone's life easier. A guy named Abdulmutallab on the watch list couldn't spoof the system by writing Abdel Mu'talib. When he did apply for a visa, every one in government with a responsibility to safeguard the homeland (which should be everyone in Government) would be able to bounce his standardized name off of his own lists. Failure to properly render one's name in one's native language when one chooses to apply for any permissions or dispensations from the USG would mean no further access to our government (or our country) without a lengthy appeal process to determine why you bungled your name in your own native tongue.
An added benefit is that this isn't even "profiling." We just want to do you, Mr. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab the courtesy of getting your name right. So that we can better and more efficiently act on your request for a visa (driver's license, whatever). The fact that we can better and more effectively shithammer you if you're a terrorist, well, that's just a happy coincidence.
*And Gaddafi's name proves the point. My own facility with Arabic ranges from poor to not-quite-as-poor, depending on how much I'm using it. As it's been years since I've read any Arabic press with Gaddafi's proper name in it, this was a surprise: If pronounced exactly as spelled in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), Gaddafi's name is more like QaTHafi. I'm reasonably sure the proliferation of D's rather than Th's in the middle of the spelling of his last name is due to a variation between MSA and Libyan dialect. So, even if a guy is making an honest effort to accurately transliterate his own name, the difference between the Arabic spoken and written word can throw a spanner into the works.