Terrorism

'No Fly' Relaunch Delayed Again

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The Transportation Security Administration's revamping of the "no-fly" list, intended to prevent suspected terrorists from boarding aircraft, is officially five years behind schedule. The new, improved system is now expected to be online in 2010, seven years after the government started working on the latest version and nine years after 9/11. So far the government has spent some $220 million on the project, and "officials would not release an estimate of how much they expected to spend before the system was complete." I am not an expert in airline security or computer systems, but I find it hard to believe that it takes so much effort to add the information (such as birthdate and sex) needed to distinguish between, say, Catherine Stevens and Cat Stevens (to use the example of a so-far insoluble information management problem cited by The New York Times), or to avoid barring every Edward Kennedy in the country from flying. According to TSA Administrator Kip Hawley, merely eliminating "erroneous, redundant or incorrect listings" would make the list about half as long as it is now.

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  1. Interestingly, the experts on airline security and computer systems (such as bruceschneier.com) equate the no-fly list with having a guard at the post office who checks everybody entering the post office with a list of the ‘ten most wanted’ posted on the wall. Equally effective, and equally annoying. His term is ‘security theater’.
    The notion that there could be a database of potential threats, that it could be 99.999% accurate (anything less means thousands of innocent people barred from flying) and that it could be accessible from thousands of places (every airline checkin station around the world) but yet completely secure is absurd on its face. But Mr. Hawley (and Mr. Bush) are playing to the crowd, not trying to make us safer…
    Grrrrr

  2. I find it hard to believe that it takes so much effort to add the information (such as birthdate and sex) needed to distinguish between, say, Catherine Stevens and Cat Stevens

    And you aren’t even asking why Cat Stevens belongs on the list to begin with.

  3. Don’t give in to idiots who seek to abuse their position.

    Idiots, yes. But people seeking to abuse their position? I’m sure it happens but I don’t buy that as the core issue.

    It’s simply that they have to appear as if they’re doing something to make air travel safer.

    Still, I don’t see how the theatrics accomplish the desired goal. Most intelligent people don;t feel safer…they feel harrased. The only time any air travellers feel safer because of TSA procedure is when one of them overreacts to Arabic-looking folks who talk funny.

  4. And you aren’t even asking why Cat Stevens belongs on the list to begin with.

    Cat Stevens is on the list because there is always a chance he’ll come back to LA and make more records.

    Now the Tin Man, he’s on the No-Fly list as well.

    Tip of the glass to Col Hogan for that gem.

  5. mediageek,

    I’m going to Vegas in the spring, and I’ll have my very own ‘statement bag’ to go along. I’ll probably throw my 17-month-old under the bus, though, when they ask if I wrote it. “No, man. The baby did it.”

  6. “””I find it hard to believe that it takes so much effort to add the information (such as birthdate and sex) needed to distinguish between, say, Catherine Stevens and Cat Stevens”””

    Yeah, but what did Catherine Stevens do wrong?

  7. Oh never mind, That’s what I get for posting without wearing my glasses.

  8. you must never do anything to keep the senior senator from MA from leaving the state and traveling as far away as possible. we spend good money to keep him at that juvenile detention center (the senate) and away from here.

  9. I personally am all for barring Teddy Kennedy from re-entering the country the next time he leaves. Besides that leave poor Catherine alone please.

    I don’t see another 9/11 style event happening because as soon as someone stands up and does anything questionable most people on the flight will likely be all over them like stink on shit. The biggest issue with airline terror comes from them being on the inside of the airlines themselves as employees and putting something on to planes. Anyone that feels more comfortable because of the TSA screeners is a fool.

    Always wear a nice leather belt on a flight with a heavy duty belt buckle. In a pinch its a quick access weapon well suited for a plane type confrontation. It can be used to wrap a arm wielding a knife and if the end is slipped thru the buckle to form a loop it makes a great leash. Where the head goes the rest of the body follows.

  10. No one should be taken seriously on the issue of security (or immigration) unless they first propose a national biometric ID system.

  11. Why Tbone?

  12. So that everyone can be substantiated to be who they say they are. Security measures must flow from verifiable ID as a first principle and today’s systems are inadequate to the task.

  13. Security measures must flow from verifiable ID as a first principle and today’s systems are inadequate to the task.

    Your assertion is not a bad one, Tbone (love that handle). Current systems are, in fact, NOT up to the tasks.

    But I question (a)that a verifiable I.D. system is a best first principle and that focusing on that is (b)takes aways from other key security concerns.

    Assuming limited resources, shouldn’t the bulk of them go toward areas where terrorist can exact better targets? Cargo and checked baggage are the two most obvious.

    Most security operations (both state and private) are perpetually behind in technology and training. A determined terrorist will always be able to get through.

  14. Madpad,

    I do not dispute your statement about the lag in security vs. determined adversaries. Positive ID is a “first” principle in that it must be satisfied as a tenet of basic security. This is not to say it is the highest priority place to spend money (that would be securing loose weapons grade material around the globe).

    My point was simply that with TSA pissing away billions on “no-fly” systems that will mostly just hack off legitimate travelers I would prefer we start allocating money towards more effective methods.

  15. According to TSA Administrator Kip Hawley, merely eliminating “erroneous, redundant or incorrect listings”

    Did anyone else find this sentence as funny as I did?

    Erroneous, redundant, and erroneous. This could only be said with a straight face from an employee of the Department Of Homeland Security Department. Tell me again how “defense” and “security” are two entirely different functions.

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