Effect Measure

500 terror suspects identified yesterday

And today, too. So they’re keeping a list, but unlike Santa Claus they’re not checking it twice. Or even once. The list is the US government’s terrorist watch list that today — like yesterday and the day before and tomorrow — grew by over 500 names. The terrorists are either being created at record rates or there are an awful lot of terrorists out there. Already the list has three quarters of a million names on it. Maybe yours. Or someone with the same name as yours.

The list is used to check people entering the country at airports and border crossings. But if Leonard Boyle, director of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, has anything to do about it, it will be used for more. Like hiring:

Boyle also urges that the list be used by for screening at businesses where workers could “carry out attacks on our critical infrastructure that could harm large numbers of persons or cause immense economic damage.” (USA Today)

Since this list is fast heading toward the one million mark, it seems pretty clear it is another example of Bush administration Security State incompetence. You’d think if it was such a critical tool, they’d want to monitor its effectiveness, if only to improve it and as routine management. It turns out, however, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) doesn’t know how many people are on the list because of duplicates, alternate names and similar issues nor do they even know how big is a subset of the list, the notorious “no fly” list. Nor does Homeland Security keep records on how many times it has been used to deny entry or to detain someone for questioning and then allowed into the country.

Recently I hosted a visiting colleague from Johns Hopkins. He’s a noted public health scholar and scientist and after a very fruitful and pleasant visit he told me he had to get to the airport soon. “Why?” I asked. “Your plane isn’t for another two hours.” “The watch list,” he said. To say I was puzzled was an understatement. This guy is as cleancut as they come, with a good old fashioned AngloSaxon name and appearance. And that’s the problem, it turns out. His Irish last name is the same as the last name of some suspected IRA member and even worse, they have the same birthday. So there’s no hope. He gets snagged for questioning about half the time he flies. Which poses two questions. Is he or his namesake any conceivable threat? If so, what about the times he isn’t taken aside?

There is no way this system works for anything but making the lives of ordinary people more difficult. Whatever you think of the principle (and I confess I don’t think much of it), it is done so incompetently as to negate whatever value it might conceivably have had (and I don’t think it ever had any; do you think a terrorist can’t get in the country because of this list?).

A secret list of names that can be used for all sorts of purposes by all sorts of people is not my idea of where we should be going in this country. If there are truly “enemies of freedom” that “hate our way of life” as Bush, they would be well satisfied.

But the real enemies of our way of life are running the government. And they are on my no-vote-for list.


  1. #1 dc
    October 30, 2007

    I doubt you can make a difference through voting. It seems your electoral system is pretty well stitched up. I suspect that, like Eastern Europe and Russia, you will have to wait until the system collapses. That may not be too long though.

  2. #2 Fred
    October 30, 2007

    It is stunning to me that these people don’t seem to realize that they have become a parody of themselves. Self righteous pursuit of a cause produces an amazing lack of insight.

  3. #3 M. Randolph Kruger
    October 30, 2007

    But Revere they have indeed snagged quite a few and sent them home without gaining entry to the US. I AGREE that the list in the wrong hands might be used by the wrong people….The Clintons. But you are right that this is being applied unevenly and after two instances of stops you friend needs to file the complaint with the DHS. Constantly not correcting the problem is harrassment. This is where everyone fails to get on board. We have a legal system but few use it. Your friend is a criminal by condition. WE made him as such. The morons they hired couldnt find a weapon or a bomb if it was shoved up their crotches by the terrorists themselves. Inadequate, inept oh, you betcha but as a trained screener the process for the manual system is much more intense. I wont say which basketball team had to leave a player behind because we found a load of grass in his luggage and it was laced with coke. How nice.

    But is he a criminal by condition or just a criminal. If we didnt have the right to inspect he could have been carrying an Uzi just as well. Its screwed up for sure, BUT, in the bigger context of things what are the possibilities. Your shoe removal thing pisses you off. It does me too. But its in response to what? A guy carrying two charges in his feet that would have surely overstressed the pressure vessel on the aircraft he was flying in. The Brits have the same system and they flat have booted people off the airplanes on general principles. Good.

    Is it an infringement on their rights? Not if they do it to everyone evenly and equally. Its not there yet by a stroke but they are working on it each day.

    The list as you refer to contains Osama Bin a Bombing, and I know it contains the name of a elderly 90 year old woman who was a devotee of Che’. Who presents the threat? They have to start somewhere and in your opinion the list represents a threat to freedom. Freedom of who? The few in lieu of the many. The many so far dont seem to think of it as mor than an inconvenience. When they start doing body cavity searches at random then it will be more than that.

    I personally dont want to be bombarded with X-rays and VLF to see if I am carrying something. Certainly not after any government or industry test assuring me that its “safe”.

    Seems we are in a conundrum and it might only be solved if people quit hijacking and blowing up planes. That seems to piss a lot of people off.. I just cant understand why in our overly secure US and UK. Both of which got the shit bombed out of them recently. WDR

  4. #4 Ktesibios
    October 30, 2007

    Revere, I suspect that in criticizing these blacklists for their irrationality and ineffectiveness you are completely missing the point.

    Have you considered the possibility that the reason for keeping blacklists and seeking to expand their use to deprive those on them of more and more of their freedoms isn’t to serve some putatively useful purpose? That the point of keeping blacklists is simply that the blacklists should exist? And that what is actually served is not any purpose that could be called practical but rather is the psychological need of the keepers to believe that they have power?

    Or that there is a personality type which views unlimited, arbitrary, unaccountable power over others as a positive good in and of itself, and that this personality disorder is becoming more and more common?

    In my own view, as long as authoritarian followers continue to breed, as long as our culture continues to see brutalization as an acceptable form of childrearing, as long as those children are stuffed full of unquestioning belief and obedience by authoritarian churches and conditioned by a cathode-ray tube to see cruelty as a sign of manhood and sadism as hip and edgy…

    Things will only continue to get worse.

  5. #5 The Ridger
    October 30, 2007

    Ummmm… just a nit, because I pretty much agree, but – which is his surname? Irish or Anglo-Saxon? It can’t be both. (I expect you meant something like “North European” or some such.)

  6. #6 herman
    October 30, 2007

    I do not live in the United States even though I am an American citizen. I recommend that everyone that has the financial ability to do so, should leave now.
    If Martial Law is declared, a division of Haliburton, is in the process of building large detention centers, supposedly to house illegal aliens, if there is suddenly a massive invasion of illegals.
    But those on the lists could also be picked up and taken to these detention centers. If you are taken there, will they torture you? Will you have the right to call an attorney?
    Are you joking? Do you know what is in the Protect America Act of 2007 or the Patriot Act? The US is already a police state. Good luck if you try to impeach the president, or march in the street in protest after Martial Law is declared.
    Get out of Dodge now, while you still can.

  7. #7 revere
    October 30, 2007

    Ridger: You make an interesting point. Obviously I can’t tell you his name, but as far as I know it is AngloSaxon (not a name I would identify as “Irish”). On the other hand, he has the same name as someone identified by someone else as an IRA member or supporter at some time and he has the same birthday (which is why, Randy, he can’t complain since the authorities don’t know from the documents which one he is. Neither are a threat and the system is ridiculous.

  8. #8 gilmore
    October 30, 2007

    Same thing happened to my family. . . VERY Irish last name, like Murphy. . . We found out my dad (+70 years old) was on the list when we couldn’t print his boarding pass. . . My new bride laughed and laughed about the family she had just married into. . . until we went away together about two months later. . . It took just less than a year to get out my Dad and wife off “The List”

  9. #9 M. Randolph Kruger
    October 30, 2007

    Exactly my point Revere. It does prevent bad people from getting on airplanes even though they havent done anything. Sometimes they catch too many fish with the nets they have thrown. In any event a lot of the problem is with foreign databases that are crossed to ours. Hence likely your friends problem. But since you have a friend in a low place… me. Here is the fix for it.

    “When checking in for air travel, some passengers have found that they are
    unable to obtain a boarding pass online, at curbside check-in or from an air
    carrier’s electronic kiosk. When this occurs, they are referred to the
    airline ticket counter where they may experience a delay while the agent
    verifies their identity. If this situation applies to you, or if you are
    required to undergo additional checkpoint screening each time you fly,
    please contact the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) toll-free at
    1-866-289-9673. You may also send TSA an email at:
    or by clicking on the “Contact Us” button at http://www.tsa.gov.

    As part of the security administered at airports, TSA prepares and maintains
    watch lists of persons who are known to pose, or are suspected of posing, a
    threat to civil aviation or national security. TSA recognizes that some
    people have been subjected to frustrating delays at airports as a result of
    being mistaken for an individual who, in fact, is on a watch list. We
    regret this inconvenience and have developed a procedure to expedite the
    check-in and screening process for individuals who repeatedly experience

    When you contact the TSA Contact Center (TCC), a representative will explain
    how this process works. The entire process may take up to 45 days to
    complete. To better assist you, we ask that you have the following
    information readily available for the TCC representative:

    -Your full name
    -Your date of birth
    -Telephone number
    -Mailing address and email address

    TCC representatives are available to assist you Monday through Friday, 8:00
    AM to 10:00 PM (EST), and Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays, 10:00 AM to 6:00
    PM (EST).”

    Those hours have been extended now I understand Revere. Please get your friend to first avail himself of the internet. If he was delayed then he should have been told all of the above but he was probably too pissed off by then to do it. I have seen these problems clear up in as little as a week but in the case where you are related to an IRA, FDLN, Teddy Kennedy, Air America on radio member, or anything smacking of terrorist groups (kidding) you could take as long as a month. But they do move pretty quickly to get this stuff fixed. Your guy has a legitmate beef. The might issue him a TSA card ID to prevent it until it goes directly to the TSA in 08.

    Now all they are going to do is ask for your friend to complete some information, maybe make a passport level ID picture and mail it in. That will go up onto the intranet for TSA and he should have no further problems, anywhere in the world. The real problem? Names in a computer that the airlines have. They are the ones that are flagging it by an already stupid and out of date list. Real time is on its way and instead of talking to an airline employee sometime next year, you’ll be referred to a kiosk with the TSA rep there. A quick check of their database which will have his picture in it and he will be on his way. The TSA will also be able upon the self declaration at the time of the check in online start the prescreen process making it less of an inconvenience.

    Onward and until then, when making the reservation either online or over the phone, advise the airline that you are on the do not fly list but that its a mistake and they will flag it and be ready when he checks in. Self declaration helps before you get there and so far no one as of 06 has been arrested from the list as in a wanted person. BUT thousands have been refused access. Remember . Its one of those ACLU things. Even Teddy Kennedy got whacked by it…See it does pick up truly undesirables but its not perfect Revere. They have to work towards it.

    Herman… You need to lay off the caffeine brother. The US not a police state. If it were the guns would have been taken from the people. That would be the biggest and stupidest mistake that any President would ever try to make. There would be no impeachment. Fortunately I was told that the average American has about four times the ammo and three times the weapons of the US military. In addition, even if you had the hard cores out there in the military in charge under any condition they would still be outgunned by 60 to 1. Not a firefight I would want to be in. It would last about a minute and those soldiers who would be firing on US civilians would be lying in the streets.

    Hell, it would last about 10 seconds in S. Memphis alone.

  10. #10 Matt Penfold
    October 31, 2007

    I can only conclude from this sorry tale that the Office for Homeland Security is being run by people incapable of reading a newspaper. Have they not noticed that the IRA is no longer engaged in terrorism and that former enemies are now working together in government in Northern Ireland. I know that much of the American media ignored events in the rest of the world but that seems to be a pretty poor excuse!

  11. #11 carl
    October 31, 2007

    I’ve seen this dance before – idiot bureaucrat thinks they can make list of terrorists – list is wrong – bureaucrat says that list is fixed – list is still wrong – bureaucrat insists list is vital – list wrong – bureaucrat says list improving – list still wrong – serious people stop paying attention to list

  12. #12 Dunc
    October 31, 2007

    There is no way this system works for anything but making the lives of ordinary people more difficult.

    You mean that isn’t the intended purpose? It’s “security theatre” – a means to convince people that “something is being done”, by making their lives more difficult.

  13. #13 revere
    October 31, 2007

    Dunc: We agree.

  14. #14 Ana
    October 31, 2007

    As Ktes said above, the whole point of the �lists� is that there be lists, that the jackboot wannabees, acting in accord with their superiors, are given a free hand. The point is exerting authority – see the stress and fear at airport queues, a milder version of past queues…the point is that it is the STATE and its minions who can decide if you or anyone is, on any arbitrary criteria at all (and they must be arbitrary, or not divulged, or confused, or not changeable) someone who gets the red carpet, or, conversely, the taser and shackles. The people must submit, and they do. They do, they do. Usually they are keen to join the bullies, or pay for free passes etc. (these exist in the the US fly system, etc.)

    This is not idiot bureaucracy. Or inefficiency. That old mantra should be given up.

    Just as the whole point of torture, is that there be torture, that it be shown, that some are subject to torture, that torture is legal, etc. etc. Torture is an end in itself, and serves to terrify. That�s all. All the legal quibblings and functionalist arguments that aim to avoid moral ones are so much comforting media buzz.

  15. #15 M. Randolph Kruger
    October 31, 2007

    Strange but one above seems to be from the UK where they have a nearly like system. Ana is in Switzerland…… I dont know where Carl is. But here is the point. If they didnt have the list and someone got on and tanked a planeload or took it into a building, then they would as they did about 10 minutes after 9/11 start blaming Bush for it. You blame Bush for security lapses, you blame them when the imperfect system doesnt work for one or two people. Shit there there 50 million air travelers last year and some 20 in flight turn backs and/or flight cancellations due to suspects being on planes…. Most people didnt have problem. The assertion is that its being used for political reasons and as reverse legalized terrorism. The only legal terrorists in the US is the IRS and not the IRA.

    Uh-uh Ana. Dont use the word jackboots when no one has been hijacked in the last 7 years. The process works to a high degree and its a layering effect. Would you give an airline ticket to a guy named Bin Laden at this point in time without questioning it? How about Al Sadr? Bush said that we would all have to pay the price in our liberties for 9/11 and that has indeed happened. If someone doesnt think its working then how come we havent had any more air attacks? Several attempts though, one woman who was drunk and nuts tasered and out of control is dead. IMO she killed herself but not from being tasered.

    The airlines are my industry…. I couldnt possibly tell you everything that they are doing because then the ACLU would be all over it. We have so many rights that you go for someones shoes and they flip out like someone has been loading guns into the overhead compartments.

    Ana, if I know that a person of high interest knew something about a terrorist act I I would break every bone in their bodies to stop it. I would also do it to my own brother if he was involved and reluctantly but do it I would. I wouldnt think twice. But you would jump up and say he had rights. So do the people on the planes and cities that are getting bombed and aircraft run into buildings. Torture should be used only judiciously and only with a medical professional available but you cant keep applying a peacetime situation to a wartime reality. You going to sit back and tell me he has rights when you know he has a bomb hidden in a building? What if your mother was in there?

    Civil liberties and political correctness in a combat zone…. Again, you have to be kidding me. You have to have watchdogs in these things without a doubt but you have to also ensure that you dont promote terrorism by allowing it to happen.

  16. #16 revere
    October 31, 2007

    Randy: Let’s get real. If a terrorist wants to get into the US they can. We blame Bush for so many things because he is one of the most incompetent Presidents in the history of the country and he is a total fuck up. Total. He has also led us (and shame on us for being so easily led) into the biggest foreign policy disaster in our history. It is catastrophic and he did it. So let’s stop making him into a victim of unjust partisan criticism. There comes a time when defending the indefensible is itself indefensible. Even Republicans now see how incompetent this administration is. Not to mention totally, irredeemably dishonest. Did I mention corrupt?

  17. #17 M. Randolph Kruger
    October 31, 2007

    I disagree Revere. Iraq was political mis-step but we were going anyway and would know that if you had been in the military. Even under Clinton planning was underway for the removal of Saddam. We miscalculated the Iraqi response and we have Iran actively supporting terrorists.

    Every administration is corrupt…Jeez you were around during Johnson, Nixon, Carter (remember the half pound of coke in the WH), Reagan (Iran Contra), Bush 1 (Too smart for all of us), Clinton (loads of fun and games with Whitewater, Monica, Mena, Flowers) Gore almost, but hey its okay to be owning stock in Occidental Petroleum and talking about global warming, Kerry (I cut off ears) and we will find out post what Bush really did. They are all assholes in varying degrees and you just have to sometimes take what you can get. If Hillary wins then it wont matter. We lose the game then entirely because she will have to pander to every special interest group just to get in there. Remember with all of the issues before the country in the first two weeks of the Clintons, gays in the military was the first. Waco was second and Reno quietly slipped out of town when things started going south on her.

    Yeah Revere, all of them Totally, irredeemably dishonest….And corrupt!

  18. #18 KMSL
    November 1, 2007

    Of course it doesn’t get really interesting until the number of names on the list starts to approach the number of names in existence…

    I like the idea that these lists are meant to justify blacklisting in general–after all, if you’re flying within the US, and they think you’re too much of a danger to fly, they should probably cough up whatever information they have and arrest you. That’s not happening.

    Re: going to Iraq anyway: The military plans for all sorts of crazy things that the executive branch never lets them do or shouldn’t let them do. That’s the great thing about having a civilian commander in chief–the professionals can plan all they want, but it doesn’t happen until there’s a reason to do it (supposedly).

  19. #19 M. Randolph Kruger
    November 1, 2007

    Yeah…Like Kosovo…..

  20. #20 carl
    November 1, 2007

    Does anyone think there are three quarters of a million terrorists out there? That is assinine and indicative of why such ‘lists’ are assinine. They do not provide security. They serve only as a bureaucratic pretense for security. Example; Hezbollah has about 1000 full time fighters in Lebanon with maybe 5000 part-time fighters. Add 10,000 to that number for exmployees on the social service side and persons in other operations directly supporting the organization. Add another 10,000 just for the heck of it. This adds to about 26,000. Al-Qadea is not nearly so well organized. Yet you are going to say that there are 775,000 persons so dangerous they cannot get on an airplane? All these folks do is make it hard for grandma to get on an airplane, they are not doing a damn thing to that protects the security of the United States.

  21. #21 M. Randolph Kruger
    November 1, 2007

    Actually Carl the list world wide is pushing on about 2.5 million. Every country has its axe to grind with its population. We snagged Teddy Kennedy…. Like I said the system works.

    There is an active effort to collect and catalog everyone who is a family member of suspected and known terrorists. If there are indeed even 775,000 they are being suppported by how many family members. By keeping the list, it tags up their movements and indirectly the people who are actually doing the shooting and bombings. Surveillance of a bug. If one was stopped from getting on your plane wouldnt you rather know about it, or would you just let them ride? You cant have it both ways. There are three prima facie cases recently that not having surveillance results in terrible consequences. So they collect the possible binaries for bomb making, lighters, fingernail clippers….. Do you really want them to sit back and do nothing at all or like me just be more effective at it. If an airliner goes down, the airlines are going to be on the government nipple again. That cost us 15 billion alone because we HAVE to have air travel. They hired tons of people to be TSA screeners only to finally get thru their security checks and find out that they were criminals themselves. Had to terminate them…something like 8%. Dumb.

    Even the non pax carriers got a piece of the pie. Dumb but necessary. As for the pax airlines if they hadnt there would have been likely a huge consolidation, ending up with basically two carriers operating under multiple certificates and then charging whatever they wanted.

    More loopholes get closed in 08 and 09 by 2005 regulations. Just too expensive to implement straight off. As to the security risks if you got an answer, I would indeed like to hear it. Tell me what you would do different that either didnt jack up rates so high you cant fly, or that drops security so low that the sleeping Boston Logan security guard didnt notice the 9/11 jackers at all going thru security. Really, I would like something constructive and more than saying that there arent 775,000 or less. It only takes one or two. Which two do you want to exclude? What number would be acceptable to be on/off the list. They dont tag these people without cause and errors do occur. Most of them dont line up to let you know they made a mistake on how many attacks on school buses and the like they did.

    For me, its horseshit until they put up a wall between here and Mexico. Screw the airlines we are simply ignoring the border down there for some absolutely ignorant reason and I would just mine it…. But no, they got rights. For what they would put into the wall you could litter the place with APM’s. Even dumb wildlife would figure out pretty quick that they shouldnt traverse the area. Then we get into the EPA and Dept of the Interior’s lunch pail. But it is about rights in the long run. Do we have the right to ensure our security and borders…danged skippy we do. That will ebb and flow like the tides but we cant just sit and be complacent. I am sure every one of the WTC’s and 9/11 peoples families would disagree that it isnt necessary. It might have to be molded to new situations and adapt to it, but my eyebrows would go up at 10%. All of the current criminal database is in the computer by the way from the US, not to mention the other databases out there. So it will net a few here and there. Lets just hope the holes in the net arent so big that they miss the sharks in lieu of the dolphins.

  22. #22 daedalus2u
    November 1, 2007

    Maybe I am being paranoid, but I think one use that some “list” might be put to is to remove the voting rights of individuals on the list by executative order. If Bush can suspend a citizen’s rights under the constitution (and prevent judicial review), he can deny them the right to vote (and prevent judicial review).

    No doubt it would be necessary to keep such a list “secret” so as not to inform the “evil doers” what is going on. With electronic voting of the “right” type, implementation of such an execuative order would be easy to accomplish.

  23. #23 M. Randolph Kruger
    November 1, 2007

    Deadie-Sorry but you are flat wrong on that part. All elections are STATE elections. They run the show and its done that way for a reason. Eg the 2000 election. GWB did win according to the newspapers who paid for the recount. Interesting was that Palm Beach County had more people voting than were registered to vote. In fact they had a huge turnout of almost 125%. Only way that can happen is if someone stuffs the ballot boxes. Our little lady friend who said she was willing to go to jail to ensure the voting process was followed….did. Vote fraud.

    The States establish the procedure under the federal guidelines but they are responsible for the accuracy and tabulations. Thats the reason that the Bush and Gore people were at each others throats. Bush knew it was a 1960’s Kennedy/Nixon election gambit and unlike Trickie Dickie, he was willing to put the country thru that and did.

    This list is NOT available to state officials. Its a federal list and if the states have a question they can ask the TSA. It is for transportation only and transportation related jobs. I myself would push for it to go if they tried to branch it out into other areas. There is an FBI list and I am sure that many are cross connected. Bush cant suspend citizens rights except by declaration of emergency/martial law. He suspends them all or none and without elections they would be walking on wine glasses. The populace wouldnt take it and neither would the military. I got out of the military because as a crisis of conscience I could no longer follow the orders of my CIC. We rag on Bush about Iraq, but WJC got a pass on Kosovo. We are STILL there and spending 1 million a day for that adventure. Those troops and forces would be paid for anyway but that is the official cost to have a deployment of more than 15,000.

    Dont worry Deadie-the election will come and go in November next and there will be transfer of power to the next electeds. To prevent that Bush would have to suspend the Constitution and its not going to happen even in a major disaster or problem. Republicans are big on following the law and thats the reason we do so well in court most of the time. We might go right up to the edge, get indicted but mostly we get aquitted for the efforts.

  24. #24 Tasha
    November 2, 2007

    Apparently it’s better to find 10 innocent men guilty than to let one guilty man go free… wait a minute…

  25. #25 MoM
    November 4, 2007

    I know you posted this a week ago. but events overnight compel me to comment. I quote Forbes.com’s Ruth David only because hers was the first article on the list when I googled “Pakistan”.

    A day after president Pervez Musharraf reasserted control over Pakistan by declaring a state of emergency, security forces patrolled the streets of the country Sunday, rounding up key critics of the government.

    It’s them frickin’ terrorists again. Other news reports indicated that the roundup occurred swiftly because Musharraf’s security forces had an extensive list to work from. I’m sure glad our “President” wouldn’t keep such a list.

  26. #26 M. Randolph Kruger
    November 4, 2007

    MoM-And the Democrats didnt and dont?


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