Today you can celebrate that $200,000 of your tax dollars will be paid to the American Civil Liberties Union to help that organization continue to stand up for our freedoms.
I'm one of those activists and I'm pretty happy with the outcome of a long process. And no, the two of us who pressed the lawsuit don't get a penny.
We weren't looking for money. We just wanted to know why Big Brother was looking over our shoulders. We are glad that as a consequence of our detention in an airport three years ago, and the subsequent court case, everyone found out a little more about how the government is watching us.
In 2001, the no-fly list named a mere 16 people. Post 9/11 it grew rapidly, reaching 594 people in December 2001. By December 2005, the list included some 30-40,000 names.
There is still a lot we didn't learn, but we hope more information will gradually seep out. We don't really know what makes the government choose to single out a mixed bag of folks including babies, commercial pilots, vets who are "mentally defective", and Teddy Kennedy. The government says they remove names all the time and there is a bureaucratic procedure people can use to try to get delisted. But the TSA will not confirm that any particular individual has been removed. "National security," you know.
One of the documents released during the lawsuit suggested that names on the list might be transmitted to U.S. government agencies all over the world -- a chilling thought, indeed.
We do know the same day the government settled our lawsuit, they also removed a Cape Air pilot from the list. Robert W.G.M. Gray can return to his job after being grounded for months.
From the beginning, we've found it hard to believe that airport "security,"-- the lists, the ID checks, the perfunctory hand luggage searches -- had much to do with actually keeping us safe from terrorist attacks. The 9/11 attacks showed that the attackers were very smart; they could certainly find a way around scatter-shot precautions and aren't likely to use the same tactics twice. The exaggerated security we encounter at airports is largely a Theater of Fear designed to keep us scared out of our wits. Only when not fully in possession of our right minds will we give away our rights to a secretive, arrogant, lawless regime.