Get the kid off the list

January 24, 2010 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

What the? The Transport Security Administration (TSA) in the US has clearly lost the plot. Instead of putting effort into sharing intelligence and stopping terrorists before they even get to the airport, they prefer to see an 8-year old cub scout as a potential terrorist.

No joke, this is an excellent example of the stupidity of the climate of fear we are now living in. The young chap in question, Mikey Hicks, shares a name (Michael Hicks) with someone on the TSA no-fly list. Apparently, when Mikey was a little baby, he was denied a seat on a plane to Florida because his name was on the “selectee list” so he was classified as suspicious. And the poor little chap was frisked by airport goons at the age of two. Apparently, the selectee list is not as bad as being on the no-fly list but it still triggers off a round of frisking and grilling for people because they have to go through security screening hoops.

Mikey and his parents were on their way to the Bahamas in the New Year when Mikey was once again hauled aside and frisked. His mother says:

Up your arms, down your arms, up your crotch — someone is patting your 8-year-old down like he’s a criminal….A terrorist can blow his underwear up and they don’t catch him. But my 8-year-old can’t walk through security without being frisked.

Mikey’s father is also named Michael Hicks but was only hauled off for questioning for the first time as they were heading off to the Bahamas.

Now, according to the TSA, no kids on are the no-fly or selectee lists. So how are they explaining constantly traumatising an 8-year old cub scout?? For goodness’ sake, the poor kid was born less than a month before 9/11, so logic and sense (what the TSA seems to be missing) would tell you that Mikey is not likely to be a terrorist. So how the hell does he get off THE LIST??

It reminds me of a list I’m on.  Five years ago, I was given a laptop at work to use on the train or when I work from home. But four years ago, I gave up the laptop (never seemed to work remotely) and told the IT dudes to take me off “the list”. But once a year, I get an email from the finance types asking me to declare how I’ve been using the laptop (for tax purposes). My response is always the same “I haven’t been on this list for four years.” This year, I had a hissy fit and emails flew everywhere – I’m hoping I’m off THE LIST.

Why is it that lists are seen as a way of containing, controlling, monitoring? The underwear bomber’s name (Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab) was one of more than 500,000 in a broad terror data base at the National Counterterrorism Centre. Despite being a suss person, neither US Intelligence nor airport security hauled him aside – he waltzed onto a plane. So clearly the list that contained his name was ineffectual.

BTW: notice how in the media Abdulmutallab is referred to as the “underwear bomber” or his exploits are called “The Christmas Day bombing” (albeit with the words “failed” or “attempt” following). But the media hypes up the illusion that there was a bombing when in fact there was not. This herds the populace into believing that they should fear “terrorists”, fear people with foreign (most likely Middle Eastern) names, or fear 8-year olds. And the result of this is what has emerged from a recent Pew Research poll – Americans have been been whipped into a frenzy with 58% believing the government has not gone far enough to protect against terrorist attacks compared to 27% who believe it has gone too far in restricting civil liberties (had I been surveyed, I would have been with the 27%).

This contrasts with an earlier 2009 poll where 40% said the government was not doing enough to protect against terrorists and 36% were more concerned about civil liberties.  Then the underwear bomber comes along (escapes through the clutches of US intelligence yet doesn’t actually bomb anything) and you get a whole heap of sheep willingly giving up constitutionally-guaranteed civil liberties.

What I don’t understand is why people don’t challenge the circus of “watch lists”, “selectee lists”, DNA databases and so on. Why not ask Governments to provide security through means other than lists and databases that haul 8-year old kids aside to be frisked.

I have a suspicion that the notion of “civil liberties” is not understood well. It’s not about your freedom to choose not to eat meat or drink coffee instead of tea. I suspect that people don’t think deeply enough about what civil liberties refer to, so are quite willing to allow the Nanny State to x-ray us at airports, frisk us, place our names on lists, monitor us.  This has me thinking – expect a long post soon!

Entry filed under: Airport security, Civil liberties, United States.

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