Public Health

I Don't See Your Name on the List…

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Right after reading Bill Eggers and John O'Leary's argument that libertarians are wrong to hold government in disdain, since it has several legitimate functions that it should and can perform competently, I read this story about a guy with tuberculosis who flew from Philadelphia to San Francisco even though he was on a list of people theoretically barred from flying:

The unidentified male passenger was apparently placed on a do-not-board list submitted to the TSA and CDC on January 8, 2010.

Investigators are trying to determine how the noticeably ill man made it through security checkpoints and onto the flight….

The airline [U.S. Airways] told Eyewitness News it is up to the TSA to enforce the "no board list," but a TSA spokesperson says it is the airlines' responsibility.

TSA released the following statement about the incident: "We are just a conduit. We receive information and provide it to the airlines. All proper protocols were followed."

The control of communicable diseases is one area where government does have a legitimate role to play, and this guy's appearance on the do-not-board list means public health officials believed the risk he posed to fellow passengers was intolerably large. Whether or not they were right in that judgment, how is it possible that no one seems to know who is in charge of checking the list to make sure that deadly disease carriers don't endanger innocent bystanders? It never came up before?

[Thanks to Tricky Vic for the tip.]

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  1. Whether or not they were right in that judgment, how is it possible that no one seems to know who is in charge of checking the list to make sure that deadly disease carriers don’t endanger innocent bystanders? It never came up before?

    Reminds me of this: http://www.latimes.com/travel/…..?track=rss

  2. Jacob,

    There is actually a really good piece to be written about the complexities of no fly lists. They are basically impossible to maintain. Not everyone uses the same alphabet. So, there is no standard spelling of Arabic or Hebrew or Asian names. So, there can be say 10 different ways someone can spell their name. So if you have a guy who is a terrorist or has TB or whatever, you can’t always just look for his name. You have to look for all of the variations of his name. But when you do that you catch all kinds of innocent people in the web. Even if it is an English name, you have lots of variations. Alexandra Johnson can be Alex Johnson on some documents and Alexandra on others. And is Alex a man or a woman?

    These lists are totally impractical.

    1. These lists are totally impractical.

      Which is the real point here.

      1. Nothing a global human barcoding system can’t fix.

        1. Exactly. It is called biometrics. And it is exactly what is coming.

          1. I think Adam was subtly Godwinning the thread there, John.

            Or referencing Revelation — though not a lot of Bible-thumpers here.

            1. Yeah. That was dense of me.

            2. I wonder if Pat Robinson would sign-up for a biometric ID. He talked a lot of shit about revelations and the number of the beast back in the 80s.

      2. Actually no. The media as usual is too stupid to understand the problem. They report it as one of two stories. Either the government is evil and is putting all sorts of people on the list for fun or they say the government is incompetent and not stopping people from flying.

        Neither of those things tells the story. The reality is that it is not so simple as to make a list of who can and cannot fly. The whole idea of a “no fly” list is flawed. But that never gets reported. Instead, you are led to believe that it would work if only the government were better. No. Without biometric identifiers, it will never work.

        1. In summary: if only the right people were in charge…

        2. “” The whole idea of a “no fly” list is flawed. But that never gets reported.””

          Come on man!! I typed “no fly list flawed” into a browser and got 2,500 hits.

          Perhaps that means there is no “fly list” is flawed 😉

  3. You’re not supposed to know who is responsible. That is classified information, and if we know who is in charge, then the terrorists win.

  4. This looks like a job for the Fingerpointing Czar!

    1. +eleventy

  5. (Shakes head in affectionate bemusement) Jacob, Jacob, Jacob. You are looking at this from the entirely wrong perspective — your questions only make sense if you think the “no high-school diploma required” TSA is an actual safety-enhancing organization, rather than a make-work bureaucracy the government invented so it would have something to point to and say, “Look! We are officially Doing Something about airline security!” (reaches out to give condescending shoulder-pats) There, there, there (pat, pat, pat).

    So long as the tubercular man did not have more than three ounces of shampoo in his carry-on luggage, the TSA did its job.

    1. uh oh, jennifer is going off on the TSA again. ;P

      1. Jennifer saved me the trouble of pointing out the obvious. I hate the fucking TSA.

      2. True fact: The TSA piece I wrote about the post-Christmas bans is the first thing I did where my lefty-Brit audience was in perfect agreement with my libertarian Yank self. Think about that: how goddamned incompetent does a for-your-own-good government agency have to be if even British socialists think it’s bullshit?

  6. I think they have it backward. There should be “can fly” lists with a huge data base of everyone who is allowed to fly. And the names should be arranged randomly so they have to go through them all individually until they find you.

    1. How about a law having TSA put on the “no-fly” list all and only those who do not put themselves on the list?

      Then ask the courts to decide whether TSA puts itself on the list.

      (Props to Bertrand Russell.)

        1. Well, OK — if Kurt changes it to the “fly” list, dammit.

  7. We’re all going to look so cool with barcoded faces; like Maori warriors.

    1. “poor impulse control”

      1. Those glass knives aren’t going to show up on any scans, you know. . .

      2. Was that a reference to Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash”, Art-POG?

        1. You know it. I haven’t read a ton of sci fi, but I’ve definitely read Snowcrash.

          1. Damn, R C Dean caught that even quicker…

      3. Speaking of which, I came within a fraction of buying an obsidian knife with a bone handle in Taos last month. Beautiful 6 inch blade, and not a molecule of metal in the whole thing.

        1. Stupid joke handle.

  8. P Brooks-

    I prefer the Teal’c forehead mark, thank you very much…

    1. Since in Teal’c’s words it represents slavery to false gods, would it be best to update it for Americans, maybe one of those half elephant half donkey symbols one sees around election time, telling them how it’s vital that they vote?

  9. Why not require everyone flying in American airspace to carry a lucky penny, four-leaf clover or rabbit’s-foot keychain? That’ll be just as effective as anything else TSA has proposed.

  10. Four leaf clovers? Bah! We need relics of a REAL religion.

    The FAA could require every plane to have a St Christopher Medal (or maybe St Peter’s pinky) epoxied to its nose. Problem solved!

  11. Stupid server squirrels.

    1. Stupid threaded comments.

  12. Four leaf clovers? Bah! We need relics of a REAL religion. The FAA could require every plane to have a St Christopher Medal (or maybe St Peter’s pinky) epoxied to its nose. Problem solved!

    Shame on you for suggesting TSA would dare violate our constitutional rights about religion (as opposed to every other constitutional right they shit on). The beauty of my plan is that it has something for everybody — rabbit’s feet are good luck but might offend vegans, who can carry a lucky penny instead, and in case that violates someone’s anti-capitalist beliefs or religious vows of poverty, they can go with a four-leaf clover.

    Anyone who tries gluing an extra leaf onto a mere three-leaf clover, or tries to carry a hare’s-foot or a lucky dime will face the full penalties of law, however. Airline security needs to be taken SERIOUSLY.

  13. Maybe full body scanners should also have medical x-ray capability, that way the TSA can just screen everyone for TB when they go through security.

    Problem solved.

  14. This reminds me of a similar argument I recently had about TSA. As you’re all aware, Liz Cheney is a freak who keeps saying that Bush gets a pass on the Sept. 11 attacks because they were “unprecedented.” Well, maybe I’m out of line here, but hijackings aren’t unprecedented. Hijackings where the attacker is suicidal aren’t unprecedented. Hijackings where a weapon was smuggled on board aren’t unprecedented. The only part of the Sept. 11 attacks that were unprecedented was that they flew the planes into buildings. But once the planes were under the hijackers control, what exactly was George Bush (or any bureaucracy nominally under his control) to do? Liz Cheney says that Obama is going to get us all killed because “we’ve seen that method of attack over and over” (underwear bombs). But hadn’t we seen hijackings with knives over and over again also? Why the heck can’t these people see, or at least smell, the rank partisanship?

    1. Couple of things.

      What other terrorist attack killed 2,800 people?

      Hijackings prior to 9/11 were about landing the plane someone else, not crashing it into something.

      1. I guess my question is how security would have (1) known how many people would be killed and changed the level of security accordingly, and (2) why hijackings to Cuba get a lesser security treatment. It seems like the security apparatus has failed once the plane is hijacked, so what the terrorists do after they gain control of the plane is irrelevant from a security standpoint (unless there are sky marshals or F-15s).

  15. Here’s the problem

    “The airline [U.S. Airways] told Eyewitness News it is up to the TSA to enforce the “no board list,” but a TSA spokesperson says it is the airlines’ responsibility.”

    Eight or nine year of modifying existing law and creating new ones and they still can’t define who’s friggin job it is.

  16. “Eight or nine years of modifying existing law and creating new ones and they still can’t define who’s friggin job it is.”

    It’s confusing, but here goes: If the sitting President is in your party when a hijacking occurs, then it is the fault of the previous President whose system is a failure. If the sitting President is in the other party when a hijacking or bomb on a plane occurs, then he is personally responsible for allowing terrorists to board an airplane because he IS the TSA. When people say “didn’t your party’s guy also allow a hijacking in 2001”, then you must say that we’ve never seen or heard of a hijacking before and call hijacking “unprecedented”. And if you really want to know why the TSA is in shambles, it can be summed up in two words: Bill Clinton screwed an intern and killed Vince Foster.

  17. As long as the Germ Theory Of Disease is believed by the people, the government will have unlimited power to terrify and control them.

    Free your minds:

    http://www.learninggnm.com

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