Today the New York Times reports that air travel has gone smoothly for most Thanksgiving travelers. The weather was good -- and prospective airline customers are getting well trained: many began the holiday a day early to avoid the crush.
So how's our "no fly list," our security theater system, doing? According to slew of recent reports on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and its parent Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), the system is still limping -- and regularly infringes on our expectation that we're innocent until we commit a crime and should expect to be allowed due process to clear our names. Nor does it make us safer.
For starters, the watch list continues to snare absurd victims. In addition to Congressmen and small children, even an airline pilot has a problem:
The TSA says this sort of thing happens because people have names very like or identical to people who should be stopped from flying. At the present rate of growth, roughly 200,000 new names a year, pretty soon one million names will trigger special scrutiny. Not surprisingly,
Though the government wins breathless hype from student reporters for its Terrorist Screening Center which selects these names, the office of the Inspector General was less impressed when it examined a sample portion of the list:
Security expert Bruce Scheier got a chance to explain the results of bad matches to TSA head Kip Hawley:
Not everyone gives the government the benefit of the doubt about its list collecting. As reported in Travel Management,
And all this mass of names and data the government is collecting isn't just used to hassle people who want to fly. The government uses it in multiple other contexts.
The ACLU warns that the TSC envisions additional uses:
This certainly seems possible if the powers-that-be feel the need for more coercive controls over some of their opponents. For the moment, most of us are not threatening enough to invoke such a response. And for the moment, we can and must still defend whatever political space we can make. But something cancerous and evil is growing among us, exemplified in those airport security checks.