Saturday, June 26, 2010
It's never too early to become a terrorist. Alyssa Thomas of Ohio, who is six, is on the US Homeland Security Department's "no-fly" list. Her family learned of this while attempting to board a flight from Cleveland to Minneapolis. The purpose of the list is to prevent people with known or suspected ties to terrorism from flying.
Her father said, "She may have threatened her sister, but I don't think that constitutes Homeland Security triggers."
The Thomas family was allowed to make its flight, but later attempts to remove Alyssa's name from the list were unsuccessful as the FBI confirms that a list exists but will not discuss who is on it, or why. Does this not sound a bit Orwellian? Alyssa's parents were told that her name will stay on the list but that the FBI will rely on the common sense of security agents every time she flies. The family flies often and this has never been an issue before because the Secure Flight Program just began for all domestic flights.
This makes me uneasy for a couple of reasons: I don't argue with the need for such a list, but the information on each listed person should be more precise and at the very least, should include a photograph. Since that is clearly not the case, leaving decisions to the common sense of security agents is worrisome. Six-year old Alyssa was allowed to fly, but where will the lines be drawn? How about a twelve-year old? Fourteen? Seventy-three? Also, my first and last names are common, so it is only a matter of time before someone with the same name becomes a security risk and I end up in airport jail.
The other day, Carly Helm, a ten-year old girl flying from Atlanta to Milwaukee with her sisters was forced to abandon her 2-inch pet turtle in its cage before the flight would take off. She dumped him in a trash can by the boarding gate and re-boarded the plane, sobbing. It's hard to fathom how a tiny animal could be a flight risk.
This is not a good summer for little girls on airplanes.