TSA Uses Your Tax Dollars to Lie About Being Stupid


It's infuriating enough that the Transportation Security Administration has on its watch lists an 8-year-old boy for whom air travel has become an intrusive, delaying, patting-down nightmare. What's even worse, as The New York Times reports today, is that the agency is lying about it.

Hey Mikey! He doesn't like it!

[The TSA] has on its Web site a "mythbuster" that tries to reassure the public.

Myth: The No-Fly list includes an 8-year-old boy.

Buster: No 8-year-old is on a T.S.A. watch list.

"Meet Mikey Hicks," said Najlah Feanny Hicks, introducing her 8-year-old son, a New Jersey Cub Scout and frequent traveler who has seldom boarded a plane without a hassle because he shares the name of a suspicious person. "It's not a myth."

Whole thing, including a tale of a man just changing his name to stop the hassle, here. And yes, this "mythbuster" is still up on the TSA's website.

Read Reason's no-fly archive here; and especially James Bovard's classic February 2004 cover story on the TSA.

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  1. Screw it. Next time I go to Russia, I’m driving.

  2. Techically, TSA is right. If the kid were on the “No-fly” list he would not fly. Instead, the kid is on the Secondary Security Screening Selection list, a list of suspicious persons that get singled out for extra scrutiny, but he’s still allowed to fly.

    You can also get on the SSSS by doing things like booking multiple one-way trips, paying in cash, etc. And also, having a name similar to some terrorist nasty.

    So why leave and 8 year old with a name who sounds like some terrorist on this list? A recent panty-bomber got a visa because his name was mis-spelled on another government list. I wouldn’t want to see Osama bin Ladin flying next to me because he accidentally transposed two numbers in his birth year when buying tickets on Expedia.

    1. I was assuming they’d use a different technicality. Like, “this boy isn’t ON the list, he just has the same name as a terrorist who IS on the list. so you see, the little boy himself isn’t really on the list.”

      Also, i wouldn’t want Osama bin Laden next to me on a plane either, but mostly because of the stench.

    2. Technically, the TSA is using dishonest language to bust a myth. It doesn’t matter in this instance if they are right. Busting a myth is about exposing the truth, not saying, “uh-uh, that’s not true.”

  3. The title of this post is priceless.

    1. Nah. A better title would be:

      “How to legally frisk an 8-year-old boy.”

  4. When the New York Times tells you the government is lying, the only sane thing to do is ignore them both.

  5. It seems TSA is telling the truth. The boy isn’t on the list. He just has the same name as someone who is. Nonetheless, they are stupid for using only the name as identification.

    So, they’re spending our tax dollars to tell the truth that they are stupid.

    1. Or they’re just using our tax dollars to be stupid. Which, sadly, is par for the course.

  6. The video of the “sippy cup” incident, which is on the “mythbuster” site, just cries out for entertaining dialog to be added by some enterprising person.

    1. We almost got a sippy cup taken by the TSA when we were coming home from Disneyland. We had to raise a pretty good stink, and they finally let us keep it.

  7. Myth: The TSA is working very hard to protect you. It’s highly trained personnel use the latest state-of-the-art equipment and processes to stop terrorists in their tracks.

    Buster: It’s really a Ouiji board and a Magic 8-Ball. If you want to evade the “no fly” list, just change your name.

  8. I can’t believe that the Discovery Channel hasn’t trademarked the word mythbusters.

    1. They’re the government, following laws doesn’t apply to them.

  9. Saw the same kind of issues with OFAC in the banking world. Juan Gonzalez? Sorry, you have to step aside for Special Treatment.

  10. Countless years and countless billions of dollars and the ‘no-fly list’ is still apparently a list of names that’s mimeographed and sent to each airport by carrier pigeon. The TSA is right that the boy is not on the list, but that’s completely besides the point. The problem is that they are so staggeringly inept and wedded to bureaucratically mandated procedures that they are worse than useless. They make flying a nightmare for the innocent and are so hidebound that it’s relatively easy to get things past them since you know exactly how they’re going to react.

    I strongly suspect that their recruiting pool is solely made up of NY teachers so awful that they actually managed to fire them and people who washed out of the DMV for being too inefficient, stupid, and rude.

  11. So an 8 year old is being put through this because he shares a name? Would someone of a different race be put through it as well, sadly I’d guess yes.

    Just shows a problem with the TSA, I’m guessing the Michael Hicks they are looking for isn’t 8. Yet, the TSA isn’t competent enough to get their agents to tell the difference.

    Everyone change their name to Michael Hicks and see the hillarity that happens.

  12. It’s bad enough that the kid has to go through life with the name, Mikey Hicks.

  13. Like the 8-year-old I was on the SSSS list for a while about five years ago. I had to be rechecked at the gate every time I flew for about six months, and I couldn’t print out boarding passes ahead of time. I dutifully filled out the form on the TSA list and the weirdness stopped. A few months later I got a letter from the TSA denying that I had ever been on the list.
    But several different airlines were getting my name from somewhere.
    So yes, they lie. Whether their lips move or not.

  14. My boss’ son had this problem for years. I believe the addition of middle names to the TSA regs finally got him off the list.

    1. Which only means that the TSA is as effective as Roman soldiers storming the HQ of the People’s Front of Judea.

      1. Romanes eunt domus?

      2. Fuck the PFJ

  15. When a government employee opens their mouth they are usually lying.

    Government employee = fuckbag.

    1. Does that include libertarians and anarchists who work for the government, public universities, etc., and who say they would dissolve all that sort of thing if only they had the magic wand to do so?

  16. Geoff-

    The same thing happened to me. I show up for a flight in plenty of time, but can’t use curbside check in. No problem- I will use the kiosk. No can do- must see an agent. Unfortunately, a huge crowd of teenagers and their chaperones were in line, and I missed my flight.

    For about a year, I had to get the airport uber early just in case.

  17. As we all know, that Pinewood Derby car that 8 year old Mikey made for the annual Cub Scout Pack race is really the newest trend in Al Qaeda designer bombs. Can’t wait until Homeland Security and TSA sends out a blast memo warning us about Thin Mints as the lastest terror threat with Girl Scout cookies sales looming.

    1. That’s the thing that people can’t seem to get through their lead-plated skulls: a bomb could be put into anything. Chasing specific objects that could contain bombs is just plain dumb.

  18. The no fly list is a data base, created by OUR congress. It does NOT allow any editing and if a name is on that list then ALL people, with that name is on the list. My name is John White (common) and EVERY John White is, therefore, on the list (same with John Brown, etc). In addition to that, there is no other information so its impossible to tell the good ones from the bad. It took me 2 years to ‘not’ be on the list. I suspect that my name is still there but I now have papers which leads me to believe that there are now two lists, one for not flying and one for those that should not, not be flying. In addition to that, the TSA proudly announced, a couple of years ago that there are NO known terrorists on this list as that would tip them off that they were known! (thereby allowing known terrorists to actually keep on flying?) It is also my understanding that to originally get on that list there has to be a want, warrant, or outstanding parking tickets and it has nothing to do with security.

    Given what we do know about the TSA, I believe it should simply be shut down. There was also a Harvard study, last year, that pointed out that the confiscation of nail clippers, etc. was outright theft and what they did had little or nothing to do with security. (sorry for the verbiage I am, obviously, not a big fan of the TSA!)

  19. I used the “contact us > complaints” feature of the TSA’s web site to point out that their mythbuster related to this story was dishonest, and that busting a myth by saying “no, that’s not true” is not the same thing as telling the truth about the problem with Mikey Hicks. I got a response stating: “Thank you for your inquiry to the Transportation Security Administration submitted on 1/14/2010 at 7:27 PM. We have forwarded your email to the appropriate group for response.”

    I interpret this to mean, they will investigate my IP address, see if I’m the same guy who regularly writes angry letters to Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, and Nancy Pelosi, and then figure out a way to have my name added to some list. This correlation assumes, of course, that bureaucracies talk to each other using Star-Trek-computer cross-referencing. I’m either in deep shit or I’ll never get that response from the TSA. Flip of the coin.

  20. Ya, TSA can go fuck a goat… Though I am sure some of their under paid, uneducated, unclean workers already do on the weekend. We don’t need to respect them, they’re filthy brown shits in my eyes. I would rather spit in their face and get some jail time then let one of these fat fucks touch my kid.

    Seriously, lucky I don’t have a need to fly. I’ll smash anyone who touches my child, badge or no badge.. When the fuck did a badge mean you can cup a kids private zone?? That’s a no fly zone, fuck these nazi pigs!!!!!

    1. Oops, filthy brown shirts…. Though the typo fit them well.

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