Saturday, January 23, 2010

About That No-Fly List

By now most people are aware of how a typo allowed the Underwear Bomber to come up initially clean on the TSA No-Fly List even as his father and the UK's MI-5 both warned how much a terrorist wanna-be the guy is. As attention was focused upon TSA and their rapid response which made no sense, it was realized that no one had been appointed yet to head the agency because it took almost 300 days for the Obama administration to nominate anyone. Then it came to light how the nominee had used official police computers to further a vendetta against his ex-wife while at the FBI and tried to gloss over that action before the Senate. Now the man has withdrawn his nomination after citing the usual bovine scatology of it wasn't his fault - lets ignore he thinks the world hates the US because we are allies with France and Israel plus its his personal opinion that white supremacists are a greater terrorist danger. So attention has turned to the No-Fly List. In the past week I received in the mail the February 2010 issue of American Rifleman that is put out by the NRA. Two paragraphs in one article leapt out at me as being relevant to the Underwear Bomber and the No-Fly List.

However, many Americans - including federal air marshals, young children, military personnel fighting real terrorists overseas, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and a notable figure of America's modern civil rights movement, Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia - have already been misidentified as terrorists by the Transportation Security Administration's "no-fly" list. As a result they have been prevented from boarding commercial aircraft. And the "no-fly" list is merely a subset of the larger TSDB[the FBI's Terrorist Screening Database -ed.], which included about 400,000 individuals as of Sept 9, 2008, according to the FBI.

Futhermore, a May 2009 report on a study of the TSDB, conducted by the Department of Justice's inspector general, found huge problems with the watchlist's administration. For example, the inspector general found that "initial watchlist nominations created by FBI field offices often contained inaccuracies or were incomplete," that "the FBI did consistently update or remove watchlist records when appropriate," and that in 80 percent of the closed investigations, the FBI failed to remove subjects from the watchlist in a timely manner or failed to remove them at all. The report also discovered that 35 percent of the names in the watchlist "were associated with FBI cases that did not contain current international terrorism or domestic terrorism desingations." - Cox, Chris W. Gun Owners Under Watchful Eyes pg 17-18, American Rifleman February 2010.

Like the problems with the climate databases in the UK and United States that have come to light, one question has to be asked. If the master databases are so riddled with problems, how can any information derived from them be used to make decisions? The simple answer is, you can't. To do otherwise is to act as a willing fool. 300 people were saved because citizens took their own fates into their own hands, not because the system worked. Something to think about.

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