Apparently either Jo-anne or I share a name with, or similar to, someone on the U.S. government's secret terrorist watch list.  I can't say which of us it is; no one at the airport is authorized to tell us that. All I know is we were prevented from checking in at the Tucson airport on Thursday without additional identification.

We can no longer check-in online or use the electronic kiosks until we go through a months-long process to try to clear whichever one of our names causes the problem.  During which time we're advised not to travel.  This latter bit is unfortunate, since both of us have international meetings this summer.  There is the additional worry that in the future we may be forced through extra security, missing flights. Or worse, that Jo-anne (who is not a U.S. citizen) might be held up re-entering the U.S.

What stings the most is just how arbitrary this is.  I've done nothing.  Jo-anne's done nothing. Yet we're treated as second-class citizens as a consequence of nothing other than bureaucratic ineptitude and the creeping police state.  Granted, having to check-in with extra I.D. at the ticket counter is on the surface only a minor inconvenience, but convenience isn't the issue.  The issue is this:

Once a name finds its way into the database, there's no way to get it out. Citizens can write to the TSA to protest and declare their innocence, but the best they can hope for is to be placed on a meta-list of people who have asked to be removed.

"The net result is a no-fly list that is worse than useless. Many of the worst terrorists are kept off for security reasons, while innocent people are unable to clear their names. Far from keeping us safer, the TSA's no-fly list has become a bureaucratic, terrorist and civil liberties threat in its own right."

-from Alternet

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Actually, that's also pretty scary...incompetent bureacrats...what can you do?

well.. it happens in europe too.. it seems that this terrorist craze gets bureaucratics mind blankened.

i get similar experiences everytime i'm passing through a terminal.. however, usually after 5-10 minutes of checkings and some weird cross-examining by two officials (just like in an interrogatory), i'm free to go.

i really think that the costs (in time lost by me and their officials, and also in civil rights - if that is quantifiable) are far higher than the gains..

I'm really starting to doubt that the government has any hope of getting this right. We know of a number of people who came here illegally and it wasn't that hard. I'm sure that real terrorists would not have a hard time getting into this country.

On the other hand, we are often harrassed when going through checkin-in due to the fact that we have travelled in several Arab countries. One one occasion they seized my wife's camera and went through all the pictures without asking.

By calevphoto (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

Wow. This is incredible, I had no idea a coincidence in name could do you in (permanently)! I hope you find a way to meet your summer conference plans somehow, both of you.

Yep, this is only going to get worse guys. :( I got sick of travelling due to security and all this crap.

My 63 year old mother, who travels regularly for work, is on the same list. Apparently tens of thousands of us are and there is a class action lawsuit on it. She was told that a "Joseph Dillon" is on their list (IRA?) and that her name "Josephine Dillon" hits as a match because the computers don't have room for the full 9 digits of her name. It's a constant hassle for her - no etickets, and all that you name. Google ACLU law suit on this subject.

By the way, love your blog, I work in organic seed industry and love to watch the pollinators at work!

Your anger is justified. It's a system that never has worked, is getting worse and no one with the power to do so seems interested in fixing it.