Annals of vigilance

In the NYT yesterday, the story “Meet Mikey, 8: U.S. Has Him on Watch List” (by Lizette Alvarez, beginning on p. 1), about Michael Winston Hicks (the Mikey of the head) and his travails with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

Alvarez tells us that the TSA website confronts the”myth” that there’s an 8-year old on a TSA watch list, and goes on to tell the story of Mikey Hicks, who’s been on a watch list since he was 2. Seven years of attempts to get him off the list haven’t succeeded, to the “annoyance and anger” of his parents.

The problem is that the watch lists (the “no-fly list” and the “selectee list”) are, at the moment, nothing but lists of names, though a TSA spokesman “promised improvements in a few months, as the agency’s Secure Flight Program takes full effect”; airlines will then collect travelers’ “birth date and gender, along with their names”, for TSA’s cross-checks.

The limitations of mere lists of names should have been obvious from the beginning. Meanwhile:

Over the past three years, 81,793 frustrated travelers have formally asked that they be struck from the watch list through the Department of Homeland Security; more that 25,000 of their cases are still pending.

I’ve heard agency representatives defend listing only names as a matter of ease and speed and defend the false positives as the price travelers just need to pay for vigilance, for maintaining public safety.

One Response to “Annals of vigilance”

  1. The Ridger Says:

    The price travelers need to pay so that some people can wave a huge list and thump their chests about their wonderful protection…

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