NY Times Finds An 8-Year-Old On TSA Flight Watch List

from the good-data-mining dept

Back in 2007, the TSA wrote a “mythbuster” blog post on its site claiming that no 8-year-olds were on the TSA “no fly” list, which apparently was a challenge to the NY Times. While it didn’t actually find an 8-year-old on the “no fly” list, it did find one on the “watch list.” To be fair, the TSA in its blog post does acknowledge that there could be some 8-year-olds on the watch list, but none on the no fly list. And the Times did not find one on the no fly list — so the TSA’s blog post is technically accurate.

That said, the TSA blog post also claims that if there are mistakes that lead to an 8-year-old being on the watch list, airlines can “automatically deselect” them. And… that did not appear to happen. The kid that the NYT found apparently gets vigorously searched every time he flies. The Times did get the TSA to say on record that “there are no children on the no-fly or selectee lists,” but the fact that little Mikey Hicks gets searched so much highlights the problem. Right now, it seems like everything is based on a name alone. That’s not particularly sophisticated. By this point, shouldn’t the TSA have better tools than just a name to determine if someone is worth additional scrutiny?

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Comments on “NY Times Finds An 8-Year-Old On TSA Flight Watch List”

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Phillip (profile) says:

Re: Re:

how do they not include something besides a name which means nothing?

No Photo
No Description
No Birthdate/Age est/real
No other information

Seriously all they use is a name. Which tells you nothing about anyone and is the easiest thing for anyone to change. So we have a system that can scrutinize an 8 year old, but all a real terrorist has to do is change their name and get a new passport and they’re golden…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Beats the hell out of everyone dieing if you ask me.

Yeah, or the whole world is gonna end. Maybe we should be searching those 8-year-old body cavities too.

You know, some people used to throw children into volcanoes as sacrifices to keep the world from ending too. Maybe we should do that too? “Beats the hell out of everyone dieing if you ask me.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well, you have a choice. As a passenger you can either take full responsibility for our nations security or you can leave it up to the government. but the last time we left it up to the government airplanes hit buildings and it doesn’t appear that the government has done anything to make us any more secure other than for the fact that passengers now stop terrorists.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“some people in this situation have changed or simply misspelled their names to avoid the extra scrutiny.”

NYT article says the same. Mikey apparently was 1 month old on Sept 11 2001, his parents have been trying to get him off the list for seven years, and his mother is a photographer who has ridden on Air Force 2 when Al Gore was on it.

I feel so safe that an 8 year old can’t get through security carrying a bottle of water, but all a terrorist has to do is misspell their name to get waved through.

Security theater indeed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

but … but … the passengers will save the day! The passengers!!!! They will come to the rescue. National security had it planned all along, when the terrorists get on the airplane they will be stopped by the passengers. Did you honestly think that national security would let anything bad happen to us? No! They knew all along the passengers would stop the incident. They had it planned.

CastorTroy-Libertarian (profile) says:

Re: he was 2 when he was added on the list

Love the Irony…

“at Newark LIBERTY International” was the airport the Keystone Kops (A.k.A TSA) patted down the dangerous and misguided Mikey, aka the Baby Face Killer… who’s 2… they so blindly follow orders they Patted down a 2 year old… if they did that to my son, there woudld be a problem…

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: he was 2 when he was added on the list

“The first time he was patted down, at Newark Liberty International Airport, Mikey was 2. He cried”

You know, not for nothing, but the TSA had better be thanking their lucky stars that there was no videotape of this for the 11 o’clock news. If there had been, people would have actually mobilized and began pissing and moaning, which is the only thing that can resurrect the Obama Golem into actually…you know…doing something….

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

Re: he was 2 when he was added on the list

My kid was two-years-old (now five) when we found out he was on the “No Fly List” from an airline worker at the baggage check. I went to the TSA website to see how you could get a name removed and read the forms and procedures that only a true bureaucrat would love. You needed three or four forms of ID. Two were easy, birth certificate and social security card. I guess we could have paid and got him a passport for that third ID even though we had no plans to leave the states (and who knows what troubles we would have getting a passport for the same reasons). Added was that the form could only be completed and signed by the person requesting name removal. I sent a message to the ACLU, never heard anything back.

Beta says:

Re: Re: he was 2 when he was added on the list

I went to the TSA website to see how you could get a name removed and read the forms and procedures that only a true bureaucrat would love. You needed three or four forms of ID…

Interesting. Since the list is a list of names, not of people (a vital difference) this seems equivalent to saying “we might remove the name if a person of that name asks us to”. It should be very easy to convince them that a person by that name exists (e.g. by providing an SS number, or a single form of ID — which shows what name that person might travel under). So the ridiculous demand for multiple forms can serve only two purposes (apart from instinctive demands by bureacrats for more documents):

  1. to establish that the request really, really does come from a person by that name (and would anyone by that name really not want it taken off the list?), or
  2. to make the appeal process as difficult as possible so that they won’t have to cope with too many of them.

Remember that as soon as you begin their appeal process, you are sort-of-kind-of agreeing to their terms, to wait as long as they take and to accept their decision (or lack thereof).

Michael (profile) says:


So the TSA agent at the security checkpoint really doesn’t have the power to say – not search the 8 year old?

Really? The security “professionals” can’t be trained to identify someone that is, you know, a KID and not search him? We can train a dog to sniff for drugs, but can’t train our security people to ignore a list of names when the person is 8?

I have a new security plan – hire smarter security people and TRAIN them.

– Training –
Step 1: don’t strip search children
Step 2: secure the guy with the firearm in his pocket

amfarbs (profile) says:

Re: Really?

Funny you mention that. The only airport and country to never have a terrorist incident is Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Every single passenger is interviewed by highly trained security personnel at least once and get this, I never have to take my shoes off!! (Even when I flew back to the states just days after the Christmas incident)

But convincing the TSA to favor intelligence over technology would be even harder than getting your name off the watch list!

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