Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Watch List

My name could just as easily have been Al Green but it wouldn't take much effort for someone to figure out I'm not the Al Green. I shouldn't even need to make an attempt to sing "Take Me to the River" to prove it.

So, why does the TSA have such a fucking hard time figuring obvious things out, and applying logic?
The Transportation Security Administration, under scrutiny after last month’s bombing attempt, has on its Web site a “mythbuster” that tries to reassure the public.

Myth: The No-Fly list includes an 8-year-old boy.

Buster: No 8-year-old is on a T.S.A. watch list.

“Meet Mikey Hicks,” said Najlah Feanny Hicks, introducing her 8-year-old son, a New Jersey Cub Scout and frequent traveler who has seldom boarded a plane without a hassle because he shares the name of a suspicious person. “It’s not a myth.”

Michael Winston Hicks’s mother initially sensed trouble when he was a baby and she could not get a seat for him on their flight to Florida at an airport kiosk; airline officials explained that his name “was on the list,” she recalled.

The first time he was patted down, at Newark Liberty International Airport, Mikey was 2. He cried.

He was 2. Honestly, I just don't think I have it in me to continue with this absurdity. What can I say to top that? Who is training these people? Maybe they should just change his name to Winston Michael Hicks.
Mario Labbé, a frequent-flying Canadian record-company executive, started having problems at airports shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, with lengthy delays at checkpoints and mysterious questions about Japan. By 2005, he stopped flying to the United States from Canada, instead meeting American clients in France. Then a forced rerouting to Miami in 2008 led to six hours of questions.

“What’s the name of your mother? Your father? When were you last in Japan?” Mr. Labbé recalled being asked. “Always the same questions in different order. And sometimes, it’s quite aggressive, not funny at all.”

Fed up, in the summer of 2008, he changed his name to François Mario Labbé. The problem vanished.

Hmm. Easy enough. So what's the point of this stupid "watch list" anyway? Can they tie the names to an actual photograph, or a description of the person on the list? That might make it easier for the TSA screeners to tell the difference from a potential terrorist and a baby traveling with his or her mother or parents.

Even with some interesting connections, the absurdity didn't stop.
Mrs. Hicks, a photojournalist who herself got Secret Service clearance to travel aboard Air Force II with then-Vice President Al Gore, anticipated additional chaos following the attempted underwear bombing. Before leaving for the Bahamas on Jan. 2, she reached out to Congressman Pascrell’s office, which then enlisted a T.S.A. agent to meet the family at the airport. Even this did not prevent Mikey from an extra pat-down.

Is there no way out from this maddening chaos? I really hate to think that I may never fly again but unless they get this bullshit under control, it's going to need to be a dire emergency to get me within five miles of an airport.

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