Does The “Watch List” Work? At All?

Posted: January 24, 2010 in Current Events, Politics
Tags: , , , , ,

The New York Times had an interesting article a couple of weeks ago.  You should go read it:

Meet Mikey, 8:  U.S. Has Him On Watch List

Don’t worry, I’ll wait.  Oh, and for you ultra-conservatives, go right ahead.  I won’t tell anyone that you read something in The New York Times.  It will be our little secret!

So you’re back?  Good!  Because I sure do have some thoughts on this one:

  • “A third grader at a parochial school in Clifton, N.J……” First, for goodness sake, you are frisking a third grader!  In what possible way could that be making us safer?  I mean maybe if the child was named Damien or Sadako, or maybe even Kevin McCallister (oh wait, that would be if we wanted to make planes safer for bungling home burglars!), I could understand.  But the kid is named Mikey.  And we all know that the biggest crime ever committed by a Mikey is being a picky about his cereals!
  • “His father, also named Michael Hicks, was stopped for the first time on the Bahamas trip.” Wait a minute, 8-year-old Michael Hicks gets harassed every time he tries to board a plane, but grownup Michael Hicks just now got stopped for the first time?  How the heck does this work again?  Is it because it is a lot easier to take a hard line against an 8 year old than it is against an adult?
  • “A spokesman for the T.S.A., James Fotenos, said that as a rule, “there are no children on the no-fly or selectee lists,”…..” Um, Mikey disagrees.  The problem with going by names is that while “only” 13,500 are on the “selectee” watch list, because many of us share the same name, in reality the number of people on the list is much larger.  (That’s not to mention the larger list that at least at one time included 1 million records!)
  • “Mario Labbé, a frequent-flying Canadian record-company executive, started having problems at airports shortly after Sept. 11, 2001,…………..Fed up, in the summer of 2008, he changed his name to François Mario Labbé. The problem vanished.”, “Some travelers purposely misspell their own names when buying tickets, apparently enough to fool the system.” Wow, this system is secure!  Fortunately no terrorist will ever be able to figure out this complex workaround!  Unless they read this article!  Doh!!!!!  Why did you print this, The New York Times, why?!!!  It’s a terrorist blue print!  But it’s OK, because they are adding birth dates to the system.  I am sure the real terrorists will be completely honest about that.
  • “Mrs. Hicks recounted. “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.”” Good point.  Maybe if the watch list actually made things safer, it would make some sense to put up with some level of ridiculousness.  But when 8 year olds are being patted down, while grown adults with actual explosives are walking onto planes without being harassed at all (even though he used his real name that’s on the watch list and, you know, actually WAS the guy on the list), it makes one question the whole system.  It doesn’t stop the real people on this list.  You can trick the list simply by misspelling your own name.  In addition you have, considering we are frisking 8-year-old boys, the whole idea that the system obviously assumes you are guilty until you can prove your innocence, which is antithetical to our justice system.  Plus such activity sure does seem like it is a search without probable cause (does having the wrong name constitute probable cause?).

So is the “watch list” increasing our safety?  Or does it simply create the illusion of safety by making innocent folks jump through more hoops?


  1. […] must be a real kick to the gut for Mikey Hicks!  Mikey can’t even board a plane without getting searched.  Other kids get to control the […]

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