Eight-year old Bryan Moore was preparing to return home to Kansas after visiting his sister in Cortez, CO. He had never flown before, and had been booked aboard a flight with Great Lakes Airlines. So understandably, he was a bit nervous about the experience, but, like most kids his age, looking forward to it.
However, upon checking in, he got just a bit more than he bargained for. Let's hear what Bryan had to say in his own words.
"They almost got me scheduled in and then the lady just bowed her head and said, 'We can't get you on this plane, you're a terrorist,'" Bryan said.
Guess what! Bryan's name had just popped up on a national terrorist watch list, red-flagging the eight-year old as a "threat" to homeland security. "It meant I couldn't get home, so I had to go the next day and I just really wanted to get home," Bryan said.
Ultimately the confusion was cleared up, as unspecified paperwork eventually cleared to let Bryan board his flight. Unfortunately, the plane already left, and since Cortez isn't exactly a metropolis, he had to wait another day to come home. Bryan was disappointed by the experience, but not embittered. "It's not really fair that I couldn't get home because another man in the world was a terrorist," Bryan said. He says he still looks forward to flying.
Reaction from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was quickly forthcoming. According to TSA, no children are on the terrorist watch list. TSA said if a child's name matches up, it's up the airline to make the necessary changes and let them board the plane.
However, efforts to contact Great Lake Airlines were unsuccessful.
Analysis: While I could find no confirmation on the Department of Homeland Security website that children are not on the "no-fly" list, it is quite possible the customer service agent was not aware of this distinction. There have been reported instances of customer service agents not having the most current or correct information at their disposal. Should the agent have overridden the system and allowed the kid on the flight? Common sense says Yes, but perhaps she would have been fired.
The "no-fly" list, developed after 9-11, has been extremely controversial. The worst part was that no one would tell us how one gets on it or off it. So a person could be effectively denied the right to travel, with NO AVENUE OF APPEAL. This is completely un-American, and shatters the classical premise of presumption of innocence. In the lower 48, it is merely an inconvenience, since the alternative to a one-hour flight from LA to Las Vegas is a three-hour drive. However, in Alaska, it is more than a mere inconvenience. The alternative to a four-hour flight from Anchorage to Seattle is a three-day drive down the ALCAN Highway - unless you have a criminal record. In that case, the Canadians may not let you drive through their country. Then you're hosed.
I understand what the Feds are trying to do, and it has some merit. However, any traveler flagged by Homeland Security should have the option of immediately proving themselves "harmless" to the flight. There's no reason why we can't allow flagged travelers to board their flights after submitting to a more complete search. Yes, it might cost more, but that's too bad. We don't shitcan the constitution just to save a few cheapskate taxophobics a few pennies. Yes, it might mean longer processing time, but that's also too bad. Get to the airport earlier. Why do you think airlines advise you to show up as early as two hours before boarding? To account to possible variations and glitches.
So the smart thing to do is to replace the "no-fly" list with a "close watch" list, and allow flagged passengers the opportunity to submit to enhance screening to "earn" their way aboard the flight.
However, Homeland Security has now developed an after-the-fact redress procedure to get your name off a no-fly list. It's called DHS TRIP, and here are excerpts of the description from the DHS website:
When Should You Use DHS TRIP? DHS TRIP can help travelers work to resolve travel-related issues, when:
- You feel that you were discriminated against by an officer of the Federal government OR an officer of the Department of Homeland Security based on race, disability, religion, gender, ethnicity or national origin
- You believe the U.S. Government’s record of your personal information is inaccurate or has been misused
- You believe you were unfairly detained during your travel experience or unfairly denied entry into the United States
- You were not able to print a boarding pass from an airline ticketing kiosk or from the Internet as a result of some type action taken by Homeland Security
- You were denied or delayed boarding
- A ticket agent “called someone” before handing the you a boarding pass
- You were told
-- your fingerprints were incorrect or of poor quality.
-- your photo did not match the travel document
-- your personal information was incomplete or inaccurate
- you are on the “No Fly List”
When DHS TRIP Does Not Apply: DHS TRIP is not designed to address travel issue related to mishandled bags or poor customer service. See links for travelers for resources to help you address other travel issues.
More About Screening and Watch Lists
What is the terrorist watch list? After 9/11, the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) was created through a Presidential Directive to be administered by the FBI, U.S. Department of Justice, in cooperation with the departments of Homeland Security, Defense, State and Treasury, and the Central Intelligence Agency. International criminal information that originates with foreign governments, especially lost and stolen passports, is provided by INTERPOL.
The purpose of the Terrorist Screening Center is to consolidate terrorism based watch lists into a central database and make that data available for use in screening. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies nominate individuals to be put on the watch list based on established criteria.
Two subset lists are the “No Fly” list and “Selectee” list.
The “No Fly” list includes individuals who are prohibited from boarding an aircraft. You are NOT on the No Fly list if you receive a boarding pass.
The “Selectee” list includes individuals who must undergo additional security screening before being permitted to board an aircraft.
How do I know if I am on a Government Watch List? The U.S. government does not reveal whether a particular person is on the terrorist watch list, which is administered by the Terrorist Screening Center. If the government revealed who was on the terrorist watch list, terrorist organizations would be able to circumvent its purpose by determining in advance which of their members are likely to be questioned or detained. More information on the Terrorist Screening Center.
Many people are erroneously told or led to believe that they are on a watch list during a screening process, when in fact they are merely experiencing a delay caused by a name similarity to a person who is on the watch list. DHS TRIP can help resolve these inconveniences. Go To Step 2
What factors are used to determine if someone is selected for secondary screening? Many factors are considered, specifics of which cannot be provided without revealing information vital to our homeland security.
If you have been sent for secondary screening without any apparent cause and if this happened on more than one occasion, you can use DHS TRIP to correct any discrepancies that may have occurred in our records and to resolve misidentification issues.
I can accept the fact that DHS, for security reasons, cannot reveal the specific criteria triggering secondary screening or complete exclusion. What I cannot accept is that someone triggered as "harmful" because of a computer can be arbitrarily excluded from a flight without being offered the opportunity to show themselves harmless to the flight. That's un-American. We're supposed to be waging a War Against Terror, NOT a War Against Liberty.
Besides, eight-year old boys, babies with "sippy-cups", and 50 year old grandmothers don't make very good jihadis! LOL!