Saturday, January 30, 2010
More Mush from the Terrorist Watchdog Patrol
We're never going to end this security fiasco if we can't even get our terminology straight. A news account going around today says a flight was diverted because some genius found out belatedly that a passenger on board was on the terrorist "no fly" list. That is not correct.
I repeat: The terrorist "no fly" list consists of fewer than 2,000 names, nearly all of them foreign nationals, who are known to be terrorists or close working associates of known terrorists. So far, to the best of my knowledge, no person on the "no fly" list has been known to have shown up at an airport and tried to fly. (Can't be sure, because the bureaucrats classify everything as secret).
The other portion of the terrorist watch list consists of a s0-called "selectee" list, which the TSA has told me has roughly 20,000 actual known persons on it. These people are, for one reason or another (and some of the reasons are questionable) deemed worthy of a "second look" at the airport. That is, they get extra inspection and questioning before they are allowed to board their flight. That list -- maintained by the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center -- is an unholy mess because it includes aliases, name variants, associates of name variants, and a veritable cornucopia of police, intelligence and anecdotal information, some of it half-assed file remnants dumped from J. Edgar Hoover's big drawers.
As a consequence, the "selectee" list, which the TSA and airlines are working to clean up, has more than 500,000 entries (not 500,000 different specific persons). The "selectee" list is the one that ensnared then-7-year-old Jack Anderson of Minneapolis and thousands of other innocent Americans, including David Nelson, the son of Ozzie & Harriet. If you share a name, a name variant or some other vaguely defined characteristic with the actual person on the list, you're subject to questioning and delay every time you arrive at the airport, till you prove that you're say, 7-year-old Jack Anderson and not the "Jack Anderson" who evidently is on the list -- and in this case, it's obvious that the Jack Anderson in question is the late muckraking columnist who was loathed by both J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon. That Jack Anderson -- a solid Mormon family man -- has been dead for years, and the fact that his name was ever on a list that found its way to the terrorist watch list data bank is a national disgrace.
Here is the news account in question, via the "terrorism" news site National Terror Alert. Note how the term "no fly list" is used interchangeably with "watch list:" Also note that nearly all of the "sourcing" is anonymous, although the invincibly inept TSA (still without a permanent director for over a year) does seem to be on the record.
"UPDATE: A Continental Airlines Inc (CAL.N) flight bound from New Jersey to Colombia was diverted to Florida on Friday because of security concerns about a passenger, but the person was cleared by the FBI and the flight resumed, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration said.
Government officials say a flight was diverted to Jacksonville, Fla., because a passenger on board was an apparent match to a name on the terrorist watch list. Law enforcement officials are looking into whether the passenger is actually a suspected terrorist listed on the government’s no-fly list.
An airline is not supposed to issue a boarding pass to a person on the no-fly list. It was not immediately clear which airline was involved.
According to an internal government report, the flight originated in Newark and was bound for Bogota, Colombia. It was diverted to Jacksonville International Airport.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the incident.