Tuesday, October 20, 2009
My Daughter, the Terror Suspect
Color me surprised, however, when I learned that my 4-year-old is among the hundreds of thousands of Americans that are considered potential terrorists. Every time we fly with her, we are forced to check in with an agent because she apparently comes up as being on the no-fly list. We do not know why she is flagged (presumably her name is similar to someone on the list) and, until yesterday, did not even know that this "list" is the source of our incessant delays while flying with her.
So I did a little searching. In a recent blog post, the TSA's Assistant Administrator for Strategic Communications and Public Affairs tells us that the TSA has done a lot to balance convenience and security and that no child is listed on the no-fly list. This sounds fine and good, but for parents it is little more than semantics. Whether your child is ON the no-fly list or flagged as POSSIBLY being on the list, you still lose the benefits of modern airline travel (online check-in, etc.). This is no small inconvenience when traveling with children, especially those prone to tantrums when forced to stand still for extended periods while bureaucratic nonsense is sorted.
After navigating the TSA website for about 10 minutes, I finally found the form for requesting "redress" to avoid similar delays in the future. Of course, to do so you first have to know that the reason you're being hassled is the "list" and not something else. Then you have to be willing to hunt for the form and provide detailed personal information all to establish that your toddler is not an Al Qaeda operative. Is this really the most efficient way to handle false positives?
Posted by S. Todd Brown on October 20, 2009 at 10:37 AM | Permalink
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Effective? What's that have to do with it? We're talking about the government here.
Posted by: Mark Buehner | Oct 20, 2009 1:18:22 PM
TSA is a joke. They only impede the most amateurish threats. And they constantly bring derision on themselves.
A little power in an uneducated dweeb is a dangerous thing.
Posted by: Big Boy | Oct 20, 2009 1:22:42 PM
They efficiently shifted the cost of false positives to you.
Posted by: anon | Oct 20, 2009 1:27:51 PM
She would certainly be the most adorable terrorist of all time.
Posted by: Xanthippas | Oct 20, 2009 1:44:34 PM
We libertarians should all get together and change our names to Bob Jones or Osama Bin Laden--any name that will permanently gum up the "no-fly" list.
Posted by: Jimbino | Oct 20, 2009 1:50:46 PM
Whine whine whine. How very 9/10 of you.
Posted by: rj3 | Oct 20, 2009 1:54:10 PM
Are you sure she's not a terrorist?
Posted by: JAY | Oct 20, 2009 2:03:05 PM
cats can't be trusted either ... and that moon ...
is that some sort of Arabic symbol?
Posted by: Joe | Oct 20, 2009 2:11:09 PM
It's not a "whine" to point out stupidities in a program that is supposed to help keep people safe. Criticism + reasoned response by the subject of criticism (which can of course include reasons not to change) = improved system. Criticism + bureaucratic inertia or worse = let's call the criticism a "whine".
Posted by: David | Oct 20, 2009 2:12:38 PM
I've sat next to children who *ought* to be on the no-fly list, but I'm sure your daughter is not one of them.
Posted by: Anderson | Oct 20, 2009 2:18:21 PM
I was 'randomly' selected for the extra security precautions eleven consecutive times. I sent an email to TSA asking if I was on some kind of list that caused me to be randomly selected every time I flew from DIA. In that time I was only selected once on the return trip. I was told there was no list. However since sending the email I haven't been selected once.
Posted by: Waste93 | Oct 20, 2009 2:18:56 PM
Why don't you misspell her name, or use her middle name, or just first initial and middle name, or some other variation? It's not like she's being asked for ID, right?
Posted by: Ugh | Oct 20, 2009 2:21:08 PM
TSA [=] The Stupid Academy
Posted by: notnamingmyself | Oct 20, 2009 2:32:43 PM
I was also on the list for a while. Like the cute little kid above I had to wait at each gate while a gate agent called some office and read out my vital statistics. I also submitted a formal complaint and waited, and six to eight weeks later got a letter from the TSA denying I was on any list. Funny how the airlines (different ones at that) all thought I needed 'special, selected' scrutiny, all by themselves. But, of course, it's all for our own good. Right? RIGHT???!!!
Posted by: Geoff | Oct 20, 2009 2:41:34 PM
I thought this was clear in the post, but, in retrospect, it probably is not as clear as it should be: yesterday was the first time we heard about my daughter's name being on the no-fly list. We have flown with her several times, been delayed at every check in, and reasoned that it was due to her age, the fact that she was often flying with just one parent, etc. I mean, seriously, why would we even consider the possibility that she was on the no-fly list at her age? We wouldn't have learned about it yesterday, but the agent was, according to my wife, "flipping out" trying to figure out how to remove the "no-fly" flag (apparently the agent was relatively new).
It's not merely that the process for seeking redress is cumbersome; it's also that we had no reason to pursue it because we had no idea that THIS was the cause of our repeated delays while flying with her.
Posted by: S. Todd Brown | Oct 20, 2009 3:00:46 PM
Speaking as someone who was flagged for several months and travels regularly, you are overreacting. The inconvenience of checking-in in person is relatively minor. Being flagged does not subject you to additional searches, simply the requirement that the airline confirm your date of birth.
This process has been expedited in the last year. What once required a phone call to clear, can now be done over the computer.
The inconvenience of confirming a birth date (or youth) is extremely minor, and tramples no one's rights, no matter how cute.
Posted by: CM | Oct 20, 2009 3:22:43 PM
Ah, well do what I suggest above, it worked for a friend of mine (he goes by his initials but was always getting pulled aside, when he put his full name on the ticket it stopped; this was a couple years ago so it might now work anymore).
Posted by: Ugh | Oct 20, 2009 3:32:23 PM
CM, What about this post struck you as an "overreaction"? I read it as simply an account of (a)unnecessary travel delays, and (b)TSA's policy of letting travelers discern the cause and remove the flags, rather than doing so itself. The four-year-old cuteness simply emphasizes the fact that there's little excuse for TSA not recognizing the error immediately and promptly fixing it.
Posted by: Quine | Oct 20, 2009 4:34:48 PM
Just wait til the same folks run health care.
Posted by: Redman | Oct 20, 2009 4:42:50 PM
The TSA is a total waste of money and another example of how anything the Government runs is a disaster. Every single time they have been tested on stopping terrorism they have failed 100% of the time.
The have let everything from guns, knives, and even bombs past the checkpoints and onto the planes. Every time the government write sa report about the TSA, it says they're idiots. It doesn't matter the topic -- screener proficiency, effectiveness of X-ray machines in detecting explosives, emergency preparedness, etc. How anyone in that agency still has a job is beyond me.
So, CM tell me why we all should be inconvenienced to the max and charged over 40 billion dollars a year for this so called security they provide?
Posted by: ScottyDog | Oct 20, 2009 5:45:00 PM
I don't know, that look she's giving us in the picture IS a tad scary...
Posted by: G | Oct 20, 2009 5:45:36 PM
"Awright! Drop that adorable look!"
Posted by: Bleepless | Oct 20, 2009 6:35:31 PM
I share the name with someone on the no fly list - which until a few months ago - was a first name last name list only - I used to be stopped at the airpot every time, could never check in on line - had to wait in line every time for in person check in - and more than once had my passport taken away from me at the border and had to wait for 1 hour until they cleared me as not being the drug smuggler from another part of the country with my same name. As someone who travels extensively for a living this is a real problem. Had to engage high powered lawyers to clear my name and found this is quite common issue. But even today, i have to myself clear this up with all airlines i wish to travel
Of course, we have no Constituational Right to travel, and we should be thankful that airlines suffer us to travel aboard their aircraft - and don't get me started at the sheer joy we should have on the mere right to walk in an airline terminal.
Posted by: david | Oct 21, 2009 10:02:40 AM
That kid is a terrorist, a fashion terrorist!
Just kidding, cute kid.
Posted by: anon | Oct 21, 2009 5:00:44 PM
I have my doubts of the effectiveness of a 1 month boot camp for people who don't even need a diploma to apply. Honestly, McDonald's has higher standards and I bet would be much more efficient at stopping terrorists. The mockery of the system is that this site is now on a flagged list because of how many times the word "Terrorist" was used. We are using our tax dollars, not only to keep toddlers from flying but also closely watch the subversive undertones of the posts on this very website. To anyone who feels that the economy is suffering and it is due to the rich not paying their share of taxes, consider this example: Taxing the people in order to promote prosperity is like standing in a bucket and trying to pull yourself up by the handle. Every inch of the previous administration was wasteful and corrupt. I am hoping for sweeping changes; starting with the removal of your daughter from the no-fly list! Opinion poll: Would you vote for a candidate that stands on reducing mindless contracts in government or "Stopping the Madness"?
Posted by: Casey | Oct 21, 2009 6:27:35 PM
"The inconvenience of checking-in in person is relatively minor."
Ever notice when someone is defending the indefensible they use weasel words? When compared to a heart attack or an attack of the gout, checking-in in person may be "relatively minor". However, the sane and intelligent member of the human species will compare it to the alternative of checking-in online. Being sane, intelligent and having done both I can testify that, by that much more reasonable standard, it is not relatively minor. In fact, at times it is a major inconvenience.
Posted by: Parabarbarian | Oct 22, 2009 12:13:54 PM
Good afternoon! Bob here from the TSA Blog Team. I just wrote a response to your blog post over at the TSA Blog. I was just going to write a response for your comments, but this subject comes up a lot and I wanted to maximize the audience. I hope you find it informative.
TSA Blog Team
Posted by: Blogger Bob | Oct 22, 2009 4:58:21 PM
I thought Blogger Bob was spam, and being paranoid checked the urly by going to bit.ly.
In any case, I'm somewhat impressed that TSA has a blogger who responds to these things, pretty cool.
As for the TSA remedy, first quarter of 2010 sounds like a long time to wait, but I guess it's good to know they're working on the problem...
Posted by: Barrister's Handshake | Oct 22, 2009 8:09:12 PM
Dress her in a burkha and scream racial profiling when her name comes up - I'll bet it gets corrected fast.
Posted by: Californio | Oct 26, 2009 1:49:22 AM
Land of the free.
Posted by: Mork | Nov 7, 2009 12:07:43 AM
Seeing how anyone can be a terrorist, I think your daughter looks like one.
Posted by: Gabby Hudson | Nov 9, 2009 2:02:46 PM
I think a class action lawsuit should slap some sense into these government monkeys. The No Fly list is a complete joke...It might keep off the run of the mill troublemakers, but it's little defense against a determined and well-trained terrorist. On top of that, it deprives law-abiding citizens of both due process and of rights to travel freely, only because your name is the same as a potential 'problem'. These jokers need to be fired.
Posted by: Wm. Sanders | Jan 15, 2010 5:55:12 PM