Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dangerous 8-year-olds

Form over substance: the American Way. That appears to be the way Transportation Security Agency operates. If an individual shares the same name as one who is suspected of being a terrorist bent on single-handedly destroying this nation, he or she is not able to board an airplane without at least a pat-down, even if the traveler is an eight-year-old. An article in the NY Times details the hassle one such child (along with the rest of his family) has to face each time he flies.

It is true that Mikey is not on the federal government’s “no-fly” list, which includes about 2,500 people, less than 10 percent of them from the United States. But his name appears to be among some 13,500 on the larger “selectee” list, which sets off a high level of security screening. ...

For every person on the lists, hundreds of others may get caught up simply because they share the same name; a quick scan through a national phone directory unearthed 1,600 Michael Hickses. Over the past three years, 81,793 frustrated travelers have formally asked that they be struck from the watch list through the Department of Homeland Security; more than 25,000 of their cases are still pending. ...
[Emphasis added]

As the article pointed out, the late Ted Kennedy was faced with the same problem. His case got cleared up swiftly, but he was a powerful and well-known senator. For those who aren't so fortunate, the delays and humiliation continue each and every time they try to fly. Michael Hicks, age 8, knows this only too well. There is, of course, a simple solution, one that the TSA has finally discovered after more than eight years:

Mr. Fotenos, the T.S.A. spokesman, promised improvements in a few months, as the agency’s Secure Flight Program takes full effect. Under the new system, airlines will collect every passenger’s birth date and gender, along with their names. The T.S.A. will cross-check all that with the watch lists. Previously, the airlines cross-checked the lists themselves, using only the names. [Emphasis added]

Well, bravo!


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Blogger PurpleGirl said...

I was just about to ask if the lists couldn't have something like a general home location next to the name or some verifiable fact about the person that could distinguish between similarly named individuals. Then I read the last paragraph... finally after all this time they're adding birthdate and gender. Argh.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Terry C, NJ said...

That's insane.

The sound you hear is the rest of the world laughing at us.

5:27 PM  

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