Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away
If you can use some exotic booze
There's a bar in far Bombay
Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away.

If only if it were that simple.

The No Fly List was created in response to the terrorist attacks on America on September 11, 2001. Prior to that, it contained a total of 16 people that the FBI was keeping tabs on and deemed them as “no transport”. That means that they could not board a commercial airliner for travel either into, out of or within the United States. It was created and administered under the presidency of George W. Bush and is still in use today under President Barack Obama. The list is currently updated by the government under the auspices of the Terrorist Screening Center. Apparently the number of names added to the No Fly List is a tightly guarded secret but as of 2005 roughly 30,000 people had complained to the TSA because their names matched one that was on the list.

In 2008, the secretary of Homeland Security claimed that the list held only 2,500 names that were designated as “do not fly” however there were approximately another 16,000 names who were designated as “selectees” and were subject to additional scrutiny when trying to obtain a boarding pass. Many of those people were often subject to what is known as a false positive just because their name either matched or came close to another name that was on the list.

We’ve all probably heard the horror stories of little children, the elderly or infirmed folks being detained as suspected terrorists when obviously they were just trying to board a plane. Here’s just a few of the reasons why that happens.

I swear, it’s me!

If you’ve ever tried to check in at one of those kiosks you see at the airport or via the internet and received some ambiguous wording like “check-in cannot be completed” there’s degree of likelihood that your name appears on a list somewhere. You’ll have to go to the check in counter and provide some additional form of ID that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’re not the person on the list and it’s a simple case of mistaken identity. Usually that would include such things as your date and place of birth, something that has your middle initial on it, proof of citizenship or a passport.

The person doing the checking in will then either enter all of that information into the system or in extreme cases place a call and obtain manual clearance. To make matters worse, each airline has their own criteria for the screening process. They often won’t tell passengers why they’re being subjected to additional scrutiny and it’s only through repeated experiences that passengers come to realize they are generating false positives.

Add me to the list

I don’t know how one qualifies to get on the list itself. For that matter, I don't know how one goes about getting removed from the list once their name is on it. I guess that for reasons of national security that too is a closely guarded secret. I do know that there was a shit storm that arose a few years back when it was revealed early on in the program that the TSA was using peoples credit scores in calculating their potential risk. In response to numerous complaints, the TSA claims that they have abandoned this practice.

In closing, I don’t know nor will the TSA or Homeland Security reveal how many potential terrorist attacks have been avoided via the use of the No Fly List or its larger cousin the Terrorist Watch List. Some people argue that the annual cost of these programs outweigh any potential benefits.

I’ll leave it up for you to decide about that but as a person who knew a couple of folks who perished on 9/11 and had a daughter working mere blocks away from those events as they unfolded, I’m for anything that helps prevent a repeat performance. If that means I have to show some additional ID or face a little extra inconvenience when checking in, so be it.

Additional Comments

User locke baron says: "re No Fly List: The biggest problem I have with the no-fly list is the lack of accountability. There's no way to find out if you're on it, and if so, why, nor does there appear to be any way to appeal a listing. Also, considering how broad the definition of "terrorist" now is according to DHS and the FBI, there does appear to be some cause for concern. I, too, would like to prevent a repeat performance of 9/11; but if, in order to be free from the spectre of terrorism, we must become the sort of police state that we fought against in the Cold War, then I'd prefer to live with the hazard. The no-fly list is not, per se, an unreasonable, police-state tactic. It's also far from the only unaccountable and seemingly arbitrary measure put into place since 9/11 ostensibly to combat terrorism. Twelve years later, this all still seems to be treated as an emergency, which I find a little bit worrisome.

User ZorroBandito says: re No Fly List: I have a grandson, now 13, who has a fairly common name and is on the no-fly list. 13 year olds do not commonly have passports or official ID's. And the kid does not carry "proof of citizenship" whatever the heck that would be. The dim-witted TSA creeps peer piercingly at the kid....could he be Osama bin Laden in disguise? Oh noes!


Lyrics courtesy of Ol’ Blue Eyes and the tune Come Fly With Me.

The rest comes from here.

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