Civil Liberties

TSA Pays Blogger to Mock People Harassed by TSA

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Last week, Matt Welch linked to a New York Times story about Mikey Hicks, an eight-year-old whose getting pulled aside for extra screening when he tries to fly, in spite of the Transportation Security Administration's assertion on its website that there are no children on its watch or no-fly lists.

The next day over at the too-cute-by-half TSA blog, official TSA blogger Bob Burns weighed in. Might keep in mind as you read that Burns is paid with your tax dollars.

It's inevitable that every several months or so, some cute kid gets their mug posted on a major news publication with a headline reading something like: "Does this look like a terrorist to you?" Anything involving kids or cats gets tons of mileage and everybody starts tweeting and retweeting that there's an 8 year old on the no fly list.

There are no children on the No Fly or Selectee lists.

What happens is the child's name is a match or similar match to an actual individual on the No Fly or Selectee Watch List.

Mikey Hicks' mother, Najlah Feanny Hicks, gave Burns a deserved dressing down in the comments (you'll need to scroll down, the comment hyperlinks on the TSA blog don't seem to work).

Dear Mr. Burns,

I am Mikey Hicks's mother, the little boy featured in the news media reports this past week. The one the TSA states in "not on a list".

Instead of reaching out to our family, you chose to belittle the process by stating:

"It's inevitable that every several months or so, some cute kid gets their mug posted on a major news publication with a headline reading something like: "Does this look like a terrorist to you?" Anything involving kids or cats gets tons of mileage and everybody starts tweeting and retweeting that there's an 8 year old on the no fly list." Would it have made a difference if we had an ugly kid compared to a "cute kid"?

It would have been far more helpful had he reached out to our family and help us formulate a solution than belittle the effort.

I am insulted and appalled that a representative from the TSA would chose to make such a juvenile and insulting statement. You could have easily left the above quote off and just shared the Redress process with everyone.

It has been made quite clear to our family from both Continental and US Airlines that our son is clearly on a TSA list and they have absolutely no power in which to remove him.

If you think it's far more helpful to belittle the process rather than just giving people the information they need, then I think the TSA has far more serious issues than any of us imagine.

I look forward to getting our son off a list he's supposedly not on.

Sincerely,

Najlah Hicks

"Blogger Bob" apparently has at least a modicum of shame—he added in an update that he wasn't referring to any specific child or family, though the timing makes it pretty clear that he was. I've known someone—though not a kid—who was regularly selected for extra screening. It's a pain in the ass. If you check bags, you're guaranteed to be screened. You can't fly standby or check in curbside. You have to plan trips around the possibility that you're going to miss flights.

The airlines will tell you the higher scrutiny lists come from TSA. They'll insist there's nothing they can do about it. All you can do is write a letter requesting a review. And now that a family whose kid's name somehow ended up on a list is getting some media attention, TSA condescendingly tells them it's the airlines' fault. As if that solves the family's problem.

Of course, given the repercussions of them screwing up, there's little incentive for the airlines to take names off the list or check to be sure people who share names with watch list suspects aren't getting needlessly hassled. They're going to err on the side of keeping the lists intact. About the only way to pressure both the airlines and TSA is to generate publicity in cases that point out the flaws in the system. Like this one.

Or, put another way, continue to make sure that "every several months or so, some cute kid gets their mug posted on a major news publication with a headline reading something like: 'Does this look like a terrorist to you?'"

That seems to be the only way they'll even pay attention, even if it's only to derisively mock the people their policies are hassling.

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  1. I want an explanation of why the “real” Michael Hicks is on the list.

    It’s a public document. In fact, I would assert that it’s a criminal finding. The state is demanding different treatment for a named individual based on his supposed misdeeds. So what did he do? Why is he there? Because he doesn’t sound like a member of the Muslim Brotherhood to me, you know?

    1. Not sure if you have not heard of Michael Hicks before or not, but he was the only Australia at Guantamo Bay, and the aussies tried to get him out for years. He is not back safe in Australia.

      1. You mean David Hicks, who is back in Australia.

    2. Have fun in Room 101, buddy.

  2. Hold on a sec…

    Suppose there’s a kid named John Smith standing in front of you.

    You look on your selectee / no fly list, and there is a “John Smith” listed.

    “There are no children on the No Fly or Selectee lists.”

    It therefore follows that the John Smith standing in front of you is absolutely not the John Smith referred to in the list.

    1. That would presume common sense, J.P. – and, as with government-school “zero-tolerance policies”, there is no room for common sense.

      And lefty radio agit-propper Ed Schultz wants TSA goons to be union members, thinking that’s the only way we’ll get quality, courteous groping at the airport.

      1. Yes, but can airline employees distinguish between a cute little boy and a midget terrorist? The TSA never said there aren’t any *midgets* on the list…

        1. Now THAT is the kind of liberal two-step one would expect! Well-played, heller, and good eye catching that loophole.

  3. There needs to be a caption with this blog entry. I’m thinking: rubber glove.

  4. It would be great fun if a bunch of terrorists legally changed their names to Bill O’Reilly.

    1. No, have half change their name to O’Reilly… and the other half to Keith Olbermann.

      For the ladies… half Hillary Rodham, half Ann Coulter.

    2. One did. Daood Gilani changed his name to David Coleman Headley in 2006.

      He was the son of a Pakistani diplomat and an American woman. He attended military school in Pakistan. He later on moved to the United States and lived with his mother but left her possibly because of her loose lifestyle and the fact that she ran a bar. He smuggled heroin from Pakistan but became an informant and got generous treatment.

      http://www.allbusiness.com/cri…..897-1.html

      “In fact, Gilani was so helpful as a DEA informant in the late 1990s on heroin imported from Pakistan, according to records and Inquirer interviews, that prosecutors made a rare move: They ended his probation years early, allowing him to travel freely. Within weeks, investigators say, he began training with terrorists in Pakistan.’

      That was in 2002 and 2003. The terrorist group was Lashkar-e-Taiba which allegedly in interesdted in Kashmir. Like Al Qaeda and the Taliban it was almost certanly set up by memberrs of Pakistan’s rogue military intelligence agency, the ISI. And if want my theory as to why THEY did it, it was probably because they were beng bribed. By whom? I would think the People’s Liberation Army. Pakistani intelligence has quite good relations with Chinese intelligence. Pardon me for connecting the dots. I might remind you when to contributions to Bill Clinton’s campaigns there was both a BCCI connection and a China connection. (BCCI was run out of Pakistan)

      In 2005/2006 he changed his name.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12…..p;sq=david headley name&st=cse&scp=5&pagewanted=print

      “The authorities said Mr. Headley went by his birth name, Daood Gilani, until 2005 when Lashkar-e-Taiba recruited him to scout locations for the Mumbai attack. It was then that he changed his name ? David is English for Daood ? to portray himself more convincingly as an American and ease overseas travel, the authorities said.”

      He made repeated visits to Mumbai, India formerly Bombay) including the Chabad house there to help plan the November 2008 attacks. In 2009 he was now starting to plan attacks in Denmark when he was arrested.

      He is now “co-operating” again

      But is he telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

  5. Najlah Hicks responded to Mr. Burns’ “update”. She wasn’t impressed by it:

    Hi Bob,

    We’re still waiting for an apology which you didn’t give in this posting. Please let me know when that will be forthcoming.

    Just because you identify yourself as a blogger, doesn’t give you the leeway to be obnoxious. I know many blogger’s who are very intelligent people and quite frankly would never agree with your quote below.

    “The way I write and address issues is different than a spokesperson would address issues with traditional media.”

    As for your “myth buster”, just because you put up a posting on the TSA site and say it’s a myth buster doesn’t make it true. We do not blindly follow Bob. That’s what makes America so great.

    We’ve contacted the airlines and they’ve told us they have no recourse in taking our son off the list.

    We’ve filled out the redress information, sent in the forms and copies of our passports. We have dutifully filled out everything we’ve been asked to fill out and the TSA did not respond until the article hit the front page of the New York Times.

    You’re dealing with intelligent people Bob. People who believe in freedom, justice and the American way. Our family lives 12 miles from where the World Trade Center towers use to stand.

    I was there Bob when the towers came crumbling down. I photographed funerals for weeks after 9/11 and I saw the anguish and despair. I know people who died on 9/11 Bob.

    We all want the same thing. We want terrorist caught and innocent people left also. We also want an intelligent government who respects their people. Maybe it’s something you ought to ponder Bob.

    Sincerely,
    The Hicks Family

    1. that is a fucking righteous burn by mrs. hicks.

      1. “I was there when George and Weezy moved on up to the East Side!”

        1. I work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a month! What else do you people want from me?

          1. Sorry, I meant twenty-four hours a week.

            Is anyone getting this PJs reference?

            1. Yes. Yes I am. Thank you.

    2. I know where you live Bob.

      I’m hiding in your closet Bob.

      I’m watching you while you sleep Bob.

      Sincerely,
      Najlah Feanny Hicks

    3. Bob, I knew Najlah Hicks. I worked with Najlah Hicks. Najlah Hicks was a friend of mine. And Bob: you’re no Najlah Hicks.

    4. We believe in truth, justice and the American way Bob. In freedom from proper use of commas Bob.

  6. A government blogger … what a pitiful thought. A bureaucrat’s instincts are forget true and falsity, find out what “our position” is and say that. Never break from the herd. Take no position until you establish, by orders or consensus, what that position is. Always CYA.

    Try blogging under those conditions. No wonder Mrs. Hicks is carving him up.

  7. According to howmanyofme.com, there are 2,319 people in the U.S. named Michael Hicks.

    Good thing one of the 44,594 John Smiths ain’t on that list … or is he?

    1. How many of the Michael Hicks have a mother named “Najlah”?

      1. 735 – you could look it up

  8. Tony, Chad, Morris, all of you pro-big government types… get in here and defend this.

    We’ll wait.

    1. Say… didn’t Armstrong Williams get burned for accepting taxpayer money to shill for the then-sitting administration?

      Most ponderable…

  9. “Whose”?!?!?!? As in “Whose asshole is that?” as opposed to “Who’s the asshole that wrote “whose” instead of “who’s”?”

    An eight-year-old who’s getting ….

  10. “Because he doesn’t sound like a member of the Muslim Brotherhood to me, you know?”

    OK, so Michael Hicks does not sound like a Muslim terrorist’s name. How about David Hicks? Better?

    1. Or Jose Padilla, or Richard Reid, or Johnny Walker Lindh, or Timothy McVeigh, or Terry Nichols, or Eric Rudolph, or Ted Kaczynski, or that guy who shot that abortion doctor recently – I’ll bet he’s got a good heartland, white-bred God-fearin’ Amurr’can name too.

  11. OT, but Coakley looks to be getting her ass handed to her. Holy shit.

  12. Anything involving kids or cats gets tons of mileage and everybody starts tweeting and retweeting that there’s an 8 year old on the no fly list.

    Translation: IRON MY SHIT, KID

    1. Yeah, but there is an 8-year-old on the no fly list.

      And under a Democrat administration, to boot!

      1. You’re silly. You’re a tickle monster!

        1. That’s what my ex said, but she was a bit freaky… NTTAWWT.

          1. Did you make her smell things she didn’t wanna? Did you put things in her hiney?

            1. Not THAT freaky, but you might want to ask Coakley how she feels about anal insertion. Cha-ching!

      2. Let me be clear: Bush put that child on the list. I’m just being presidential. I have to govern.

  13. “There are no children on the No Fly or Selectee lists.”

    Oh great. Look for the next panty bomb to come nestled in a diaper.

  14. SCOTT BROWN WON!

    AMERICA IS SAVED!

    1. Tony and Chad must be in their cups down at the bar right now… still no word from them.

      Ahh, well, they’ll split a wine cooler, get ‘faced, and wake up tomorrow trying to figure out how to blame their hangover on Brown.

      1. They can blame their drunken gay orgy on Brown.

      2. It’s Bush’s fault

    2. You know, they’re not going to seat him until after healthcare votes are done…

  15. The TSA blogger missed or probably deliberately ignored the point. Even if there are no children on the list, the child was subjected to additional screening based on the No Fly or Watch list.

    Maybe what is needed is a hefty penalty levied against an airline, for payment to the aggrieved party, that subjects a child to additional screening solely on the basis that the child’s name matches a name on the No Fly or Watch list or whatever. When it hits airlines in the pocketbook, they will take notice and encourage discretion on the part of their employees. TSA should pay double the penalty if they screw up like that.

    1. Why would you punish the airlines for following to the letter what they are being forced to follow by the TSA??? The change has to happen in the TSA itself, such as adding identifying factors to the names on the lists, such as descriptions or SS number.

      1. Cause they’re racists?

        1. Only the French airlines.

  16. Fluffy’s question seems important. Is the real “Mike Hicks” on the no-fly list this 73 year old commie?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Hicks

  17. Is there a Spartacus on the no-fly list? ‘Cause I have a cunning plan.

    1. NO! I am Brian!

  18. Along those lines, yes.

  19. Any child under 12 is supposed to be exempt from selectee screening, according to the SOP. What you have here is a case of TSOs not following SOP.

    As for Blogger Bob being a smart ass, so what? The man tries to add a bit of personality to a Govt. blog which is more than can be said for any other Govt. blog. (seriously, the others just regurgitate press releases.)

    Blogger Bob missed the mark this time and you guys want to crucify him. Take a deep breath, relax and try to appreciate the good faith effort the man puts in.

    If you think I am an apologist for the TSA, read my blog. (click on my name)

    1. C’mon TK. I regularly lurk/occasionally post over at the TS&S board on Flyertalk. I know how you feel. But I know you’re wrong about Blogger Bob. I know it’s partially the people above him, but he’s taken a blog that was supposed to be about conversation between the TSA and the Public, and all he’s done is avoid questions and repeatedly ridicule the public for daring to ask questions.

      If this was a “TSO not following SOP” thing, than Bob should’ve said so. His actual post makes one questio his character.

      1. Kip allowed a lot more conversation on the blog than Gale has. I think Blogger Bob is just biding his time until a replacement Kip is found and things can go back to normal.

  20. You could just do what the terrorists do and change your name. For domestic flights, the kid (8 yr old) doesn’t have to have ID. The simple solution for that is to just call him Mark on the ticket.

    Again, the kid isn’t on the w/l, he’s just a name match. If he’s more than 5 yrs away in DOB, he’s not a match.

  21. Gotta love the completely non-sequitur link to fucking keyboard cat at the beginning. That’s right, distract the simple, mouthbreathing citizens from your lies and propaganda with cats just because it’s easy and effective. prick.

  22. Am I the only one who prefers to go through selective screening? When there are a couple of dozen people waiting 20 minutes to go through security I can get through selective screening in about a minute and be on my way.

  23. That TSA blog is weird.

  24. The only way the TSA can guarantee there are no children on the list is if the list has the approximate age of the person they are specifying for extra screening.

  25. I thought one of the main purposes of the No-Fly list was to make life a little more difficult for anyone who was critical of the Bush regime.

    If there are no children on the no-fly list then all children should be exempt from having their names checked with the list.

    This list is clearly making us all less safe – as it is easily avoidable by anyone dishonest so endless resources better used elsewhere are spent harrasing the honest and innocent.

  26. My name was on that stupid list. I found out when I went to the airport and couldn’t check in curbside or at the kiosk. There was a huge line and I missed my flight. I got to the airport extra early after that- it lasted for about a year.

  27. I’m woefully under the impression that any attempts made to remove your name from the list through administrative means (writing letters, filling out forms, etc.) probably do more harm than good.

  28. Say what you want but I know “Blogger Bob” and know he has made no secret about working for TSA. When persons ask about issues on the blog it is not uncommon to reach out to the various program managers to help answer a question. Perhaps — just perhaps — Blogger Bob was given incorrect information or the individual did not fully understand the question. It makes many feel great to think everything is a grand conspiracy but I think not. So there is evidently a kid with a name similar or the same as someone on the no-fly list. Then why has this been ignored for several years but is now a raging fire for some? It is also unfair to hold Blogger Bob or even TSA responsible for putting all of the names on all of the various lists as other agencies have done a ton of them for their own reasons. It seems to be someone’s attempt @ their 15 minutes of fame.

    1. Say what you want but I know “Blogger Bob” and know he has made no secret about working for TSA. When persons ask about issues on the blog it is not uncommon to reach out to the various program managers to help answer a question. Perhaps — just perhaps — Blogger Bob was given incorrect information or the individual did not fully understand the question.

      So which is it, does he work for the damn TSA or not? If he does, he’s speaking officially for them, and has a responsibility to get things right, or to put them right if they were first wrong, and be responsive to citizen concerns; if he’s not, then he should stop presenting himself as an authority. But you can’t have it both ways, where it was no secret he worked for the TSA but he’s also under no obligation or expectation to be right about anything. Either way, he needs to be less of an asshat about the whole issue.

      Oh, and it was “ignored for several years” because it was the TSA doing the ignoring, until the issue started making major news outlets, as you would see from reading Najlah Hicks’ comment.

    2. Or perhaps Bob’s an unprofessional apologist for a disgusting organization.

  29. “… the child’s name is a match or similar match to an actual individual on the No Fly or Selectee Watch List.”

    I suppose it’s way to hard for the TSA to add just one teeny bit of information: the approximate age of the individual. Maybe even a decsription.

    I really feel sorry for anyone named James Johnson or Mary Jones.

  30. Please support our family in trying to get Mikey off the list on our facebook page at:

    http://www.facebook.com/#/page…..040?ref=ts

    We’re convinced that the more pressure we put on the TSA, the faster they will move.

    Also, we’re trying to answer many of your questions at:

    http://www.getmikeyoffthelist.com

  31. There is a reason why the TSA blog is called “Propaganda Village” and Burns as “Blogdad Bob”. He is a waste of tax money better spent on hookers and blow.

  32. So let’s see. If there are 2,000 guys named XYZ, and one of them is a suspected terrorist, then the name XYZ goes on the list, and 2,000 guys get hassled beyond belief EVERY TIME they try to travel. HOWEVER, technically, only ONE of those people is “on the list,” and the rest are “not on the list.”

    Is that the game this shit-for-brains bureaucrat is trying to play? Are we going to argue what “is” is again?

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    The Muslim Brotherhood opinions and views can be found under the sections of MB statements and MB opinions, in addition to the Editorial Message.
    Items posted under “other views” are usually different from these of the Muslim Brotherhood.
    Ikhwanweb does not censor any articles or comments but has the right only to remove any inappropriate words that defy public taste
    Ikhwanweb is not a news website, although we report news that matter to the Muslim Brotherhood”s cause. Our main misson is to present the Muslim Brotherhood vision right from the source and rebut misonceptions about the movement in western societies. We value debate on the issues and we welcome constructive criticism.

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  34. Leave it to TSA. These people really can be jerks – this just follows right in line.
    BTW, I saw this story about some poor kids getting his toys taken by the TSA: http://www.executivejerks.com/…..it-too-far

  35. The TSA, especially (but not exclusively) the lower-echelon front-liners who staff the checkpoints, are beneficiaries of a Federal jobs program. They are otherwise-unemployable Delta-minuses who, against all reasonable expectation, have been given a modicum of authority. They exercise it in the way they believe authority is properly exercised, i.e. with the capricious thuggishness of playground bullies.

    It is possible that, given intensive on-the-job education, some of them can eventually be trained to recognize 8-year-olds as “children” rather than “suspected terrorists” and thereby qualify for promotion to supervisory positions.

    They will continue to harass little Mikey, et al, because the Mikeys are “soft targets” who don’t “look like” terrorists. This allows them to maintain the fiction that their searches are random, rather than the racist profiling of obvious non-suspects. Besides, that 80-year-old grandmother from Duluth isn’t likely to (literally) blow up in their faces. Sweaty, fidgety, 24-year-old Achmed? They’ll wave him through. That way, if he blows up, he won’t be standing right in front of the TSA bozos when he does it.

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  38. I suppose it’s way to hard for the TSA to add just one teeny bit of information: the approximate age of the individual. Maybe even a decsription.

    I really feel sorry for anyone named James Johnson or Mary Jones.

    http://www.onlineuniversalwork.com

  39. To say that no children are on a no-fly or watch list is a half truth. My six year old nephew who is caucasian and has never left the country was contacted by the TSA prior to a flight from Cleveland to Chicago. His name must have matched someone on the lists. So really, he is on a list- such a list must exist if he gets a letter. Technically, everyone who shares names with those on the watch or no-fly lists is on a list- a third list. Being on the third list just guarantees you hassles when attempting to travel. Can’t the TSA be like banks who have to perform checks and scrub travellers who are grossly different in age than those on the watch and no-fly lists? This could be an automated process.

  40. If you think it’s far more helpful to belittle the process rather than just giving people the information they need, then I think the TSA has far more serious issues than any of us imagine.
    http://destinationsoftwareinc.com

  41. Hahaha. Your so funny guys! How’d you get here? Theres so much comment on this page, what is going anyway here?

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