From "Inside Job: My Life as an Airport Screener" in Conde Nast Traveler. Don't miss Barbara Peterson's fascinating tale. Photo by Marc Asnin.
Friends ask me this periodically. As far as I can tell, the answer is "no." Since our lawsuit concluded, airline clerks no longer respond to my ID with the telltale start and the phrase "there is something wrong with my computer." My boarding passes no longer get marked with a hand-scrawled red "S" (early days) or the current printed "SSSS" that means you are a "selectee" subjected to special search.
Of course the government never told us we off the list -- in fact, they refused throughout the lawsuit to say whether we were on the list. But my anecdotal evidence is that they've decided I'm harmless to air traffic (though possibly not to the T.S.A.)
What's important is that a lot of other harmless people are put through various levels of harassment by the U.S. audience-participation airport security theater. Not too surprisingly, an awful lot of them have Arab or South Asian names. A recent rant about being stopped on KABOBfest, an English language Arab blog, evoked these stories:
The T.S.A. has always insisted that any innocents on the list are cases of mistaken identity, not political persecution. But the sort of things airline folks told Professor Murphy are exactly what they told us about the list we found ourselves detained, way back in 2002. At that point, we assumed we were victims of a sort of "round up the usual suspects" phenomenon: after 9/11 all the various federal spy outfits threw together everyone they'd ever considered "suspicious." We probably turned up in a lot of categories having lived long lives of activism, so we were thrown on a list.
A recent Washington Post article headlined "Terror Database Has Quadrupled In Four Years: U.S. Watch Lists Are Drawn From Massive Clearinghouse," suggests wide-ranging collection of names is still the rule. The so-called Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) is now up to 435,000 names.
Sure sounds like they just throw in "all the usual suspects" -- and everyone named Mohammed.
This isn't security. It is a combination of data collection gone cancerous, permanent welfare for government bureaucracies, and theatrical posturing to convince the population that Big Brother is on the job.