August 16, 2005

How many things can we find wrong?

I was pointed to this story by a friend, who reminded me that I in fact had met the toddler shown there when she was an infant. The story points out several things that just make me crazy. Here's what and why.

First of all, while the story points out (correctly) the stupidity of having a 1 year old's name trigger the no-fly list, it doesn't mention what I consider to be the real stupidity exposed. Namely, that the system is so proceduralized (or fraught with penalties for stupid infractions) that people who are otherwise likely competent aren't simply allowing the toddlers in question to go through when the name triggers a warning. If, say, you're an airport security official (or ticket agent) and you are faced with a couple or single parent whose name is not on a no-fly list, but have an infant or toddler whose name (which they have given you voluntarily) is on a no-fly list, do you really think this child is a security risk because of their name?

If you answered yes, then please don't join the service industry, or God forbid, take any job where my future safety might depend on your decisionmaking.

Second: when contacted for comment, the TSA informed CNN that in fact these stoppages were incorrect. Although that might be cause for relief, let's look at why: according to CNN it's because " the Transportation Security Administration, which administers the lists, instructs airlines not to deny boarding to children under 12 -- or select them for extra security checks -- even if their names match those on a list."

In other words, there is a rules-based hole in the security system. Bad enough that they're trying to fix an incredibly stupid failure with a blanket policy - however, they've gone a step farther and 'fail-open'-ed the process with that policy. I'm not saying that a 1-yr-old is going to be a security risk. However, if someone is willing to bomb an aircraft with children on it, what are the odds that they would stop at using a willing (or unknowing) child to help them get a device onto the plane?

I have no way of actually rating the likelihood of that threat, but the point is: in order to fix a false positive (which occurred for stupid reasons, namely that for some reason there is not enough individual judgement allowed for a 1 year old to pass through security because simply of a no-fly list entry) the TSA has resorted to blanket policies which in fact weaken the (already laughable) system.

And this agency is part of the department that thinks it shouldn't have to put up with Congressional oversight over its attempts to control the rights of Americans to travel or to acquire their personal information for unspecified ends.

More here is broken than a security system. Much, much more.

Posted by jbz at August 16, 2005 11:58 AM | TrackBack

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