Do Terrorists Lie?

Terrorists might bomb airplanes, take and kill hostages, and otherwise terrorize innocents. But there's one thing they just won't do: lie on government forms. And that's why the State of Ohio requires certain license (including private pilot licenses) applicants to certify that they're not terrorists. Because if we can't lock them up long enough for terrorism, we've got the additional charge of lying on a government form to throw at them.

Okay, it's actually slightly less silly than that. You have to certify that you are not a member of, a funder of, a solicitor for, or a hirer of members of any of these organizations, which someone -- presumably the Department of Homeland Security -- has decided are terrorist organizations.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is pissed off, as they should well be.

More security theater.

I assume Ohio isn't the only state doing this. Does anyone know anything about other states?

EDITED TO ADD (1/18): Here's a Pennsylvania application or a license to carry firearms that asks: "Is your character and reputation such that you would be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety?" I agree that Pennsylvania shouldn't issue carry permits to people for whom this is true, but I'm not sure that asking them is the best way to find out.

Posted on January 17, 2007 at 7:34 AM • 87 Comments

Comments

J.January 17, 2007 8:00 AM

...euhm, have authorities given any thought about homonyms / synonyms?
One would be able to declare not to be member of a particular organisation as listed when one doesn't 'recognise' the spelling used. Mohammed can be put into western spelling in 200 different ways.
Not that I am member of any of the orgs listed or any other spelling of their names... just doesn't make sense in more than Bruce's way.

Andy FletcherJanuary 17, 2007 8:14 AM

@J.
Exactly my initial thought. Many of these 'organisations' have names which are not in the western character set and there is rarely a 1 to 1 mapping for characters and names.

A 'proper' list would have the names written in the original character set (arabic, hebrew, tamil or whatever). That also assumes that the organisation ever wrote down their name.

@Roger
One question which always makes me laugh on the waver form is the one about 'moral turpitude'. The correct response for 99% of the readers would be 'I haven't a clue' but that isn't an allowed response on the form.

Sandwich GuyJanuary 17, 2007 8:14 AM

Subway's franchise agreement says that you are not a terrorist and you will not use the restaurant to raise funds for terrorist activities. Supposedly this is required by the PATRIOT Act.

DeweyJanuary 17, 2007 8:41 AM

One reason AOPA is pissed is that they want to avoid each state coming up with their own pilot requirements -- that would make life more complicated for pilots and particularly student pilots. AOPA is fighting the decline in private pilot numbers (which, if memory serves, has been significant since 9/11/2001).

Since there are only about 600k pilots in the US pilots are an easy target to pick as a very small but highly visible minority that most people don't connect to.

None of this should be taken to mean that AOPAs points aren't entirely valid.

Full disclosure: I am a pilot and AOPA member. I joined AOPA around 9/15/2001 and started flight training in 2002 because I figured they'd make it harder and harder to do.

AnynomousJanuary 17, 2007 8:41 AM

The Real IRA must have really pissed off Noraid's representatives in Ohio, given that they're the only IRA splinter group listed. I can learn to fly if I'm a member fo the IRA, or even the continuity IRA. But Real IRA members are grounded.

SuomynonaJanuary 17, 2007 8:45 AM

Good to see the IRA (Real IRA) is on the list. In the 'war on terrorism funding' I've yet to see anyone in the US charged with funding IRA activities. (Is it not common knowledge that a significant portion of IRA funding came from the USA?)

AnynomousJanuary 17, 2007 8:57 AM

Tssk, my anagrammatic friend, are you accusing those noble freedom fighters of terrorism? You've obviously no interest in being elected in Boston.

bobechsJanuary 17, 2007 8:59 AM

I am old enough to have gotten my first government job when it was still a requirement to swear that you were not and never had been a member of orginizations on the famous two-page "Attorney General's List" of fascist and communist front organizations of the twenties, thirties and forties. The absurdity of flogging that pack of dead horses in the seventies was apparent to all except the counter-intelligence types who took it deadly serious.

That's when I concluded they don't call it counter-intelligence for nothing. Stupid ideas never die; they just re-title the list.

C GomezJanuary 17, 2007 9:00 AM

There are multitudes of forms where you certify you aren't supplying any false information! That's essentially what this is.

In certain cases, this is not a big deal. It's essentially a method to be able to prosecute someone for perjuring themselves on the form when other forms of evidence aren't available or are non-sufficient for a conviction on the real crime.

Again, in most cases... so what? Example: you shouldn't be trying to vote if you aren't allowed to, and you should be punished for it if you do. Certifying on the form that you aren't trying to do something you're not supposed to is prima facie evidence of perjury, and you can be punished for that at the least.

That's not commenting on this case. It merely points out that there are untold stacks of forms that make you promise you aren't lying under threat of punishment. That, in itself, is not a horrible thing. It's when that promise is forced on you in places where it shouldn't be.

BonusdaysJanuary 17, 2007 9:01 AM

OK, I'll be the extremist here. How long before we see groups that we ARE members of; MYF(Methodist Youth Fellowship):they're teens and their organized, BSA(Boy Scouts of America): they have extreme survival skills and separatists views, USPA(Unites States Parachute Association): they have parachutes and access to planes.

vwmJanuary 17, 2007 9:17 AM

Requirements like that one provide the possibility to convict terrorists-to-be that

a) are up to something but haven't done anything jet, or
b) wouldn't normally fall under US- judication (i.e. crimes committed in an other country, although ...).

Still I do not think it is worth the effort as it probably will not at all prevent crime.

John DaviesJanuary 17, 2007 9:20 AM

What is the punishment for lying on a government form these days? Presumably it's straight off to Guantanamo - do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

The list reminds me of the Monty Python - Life of Brian scene where they're discussing terrorist groups:

"Whatever happened to the Popular Front of Judea"
"He's over there"

ThomasJanuary 17, 2007 9:20 AM

Some german countries planned to make a test if some foreigner wants to get a german passport. They planned to ask what an applicant for german citizenship thinks of this and of that, if he feels offended by some behaviour and all such things were they think to make a profile and find out who is good and who is bad.
Well, we laughed a lot about that attitude ;)

AnonymousJanuary 17, 2007 9:23 AM

Well, I for one welcome the fact that the government is finally waking to the potential for terrible damage from an airborne terrorist attack on high-value targets in Ohio. Protecting the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame is certainly worth inconveniencing a bunch of malcontent pilots, who are mostly an air traffic nuisance anyway.

Chris LJanuary 17, 2007 9:24 AM

I'm fairly sure it's still part of the visa interview process for entrance into the US where the interviewer asks point-blank, "Are you a terrorist?" That's even better than the three questions airline employees thankfully don't ask anymore ("Did you pack your bags yourself?", etc.)

KeithJanuary 17, 2007 9:27 AM

The Federal Government does it to all foreigners trying to enter the US, either by the visa waiver form or the visa application forms. Generally the questioning is "are you a terrorist" and "are you or were you ever a member of the Nazi Party or the Communist Party" (from memory - may not be exact quotes).
Dell also ask when you're buying a PC if you're going to use it for terrorist purposes or to build a nuclear device.

Carlo GrazianiJanuary 17, 2007 9:31 AM

@Keith:

If you tell Dell that you need the PC for terrorist purposes, do they send you the exploding battery variant?

KeoneJanuary 17, 2007 9:51 AM

"Security theater!" What a great phrase, so obvious but I just came accross it for the first time nice. mahalo. first the squids now the phrase.

AndyJanuary 17, 2007 9:54 AM

Yup, I think the Visa Waiver you fill in flying from the UK also has something about whether you participated in the persecution of the Jewish Population in the 1939-1945 conflict. Might as well just ask 'Are you a Bad Person?' And something tells me that wouldn't work either.

Finder of obscure factsJanuary 17, 2007 10:09 AM

It's easy to be a "funder" of a terrorist group.

Javed Iqbal, a satellite TV installer, found himself up on federal charges when he hooked people up to Hizbollah's satellite channel. Money changed hands, a few dollars a month went to Hizbollah, so he got arrested. The same logic could have been used to prosecure the viewers, too.

SparkyJanuary 17, 2007 10:31 AM

You people just don't get it; it's so obvious.
The DHS is going to request membership lists from each of those organisations, and cross-reference them with the list of pilots who claim they are not terrorists.

DavidJanuary 17, 2007 10:34 AM

Yes, terrorists lie, and so do our politicians, and so does nearly every human being alive. We all know that a lie can be the best policy in certain situations.

It is clear that the terrorists are winning, because the more we change our ways, increase our suspicion of one another and give government more authority over our lives, the more the terrorists achieve their goals right here in the USA.

The more we ratchet up our "response" in foreign lands, the more hatred they create of the USA because you can't shoot 'em up in the streets and not kill innocents, which is its own form of terrorism.

That's too bad. We need to return to liberty and justice for all, and not accept brutality from an "ally" or impose our external will on others unless they are an actual threat, not just an opined one.

Petré MitchellJanuary 17, 2007 10:42 AM

So if I start my own independent terrorist organization, it's not on the list and I can still be a pilot! (Well, if I can fudge my way through the vision test somehow, too...)

gfujimoriJanuary 17, 2007 10:45 AM

Interesting proposition left as an exercise for the reader:

Make sure your birthdate is post 1970, then answer 'yes' on the Holocaust question when entering the US.

Observe whether border protection agents do the math and just yell at you for filling it out wrong or attempt to interrogate you on your activities more than 30 years before your birth.

X the UnknownJanuary 17, 2007 11:08 AM

@gfujimori: "Make sure your birthdate is post 1970, then answer 'yes' on the Holocaust question when entering the US."

Not quite the same thing, but my sister is officially a WWII vet, even though she was born long after the fracas. She served in the armed forces in Berlin, before the Wall came down. This apparently counts...

George WohlkerJanuary 17, 2007 11:15 AM

Well, I think they should make the pledge of allegiance mandatory for every flight-passanger flying into and out of the US. That should stop them terrrists. If that doesn't help, make 'em say nasty stuff 'bout them other religons. We'll catch them freedom-haters right there.

turpterJanuary 17, 2007 11:15 AM

@Andy Fletcher

Interestingly, since the "moral turpitude" clause includes petty shoftlifting, possession of stolen goods, or leaving the scene of an accident, but not a DUI or manslaughter (it's all about "intent"), it's not that hard for many people to have committed such a moral turpitude crime in the past.

kiwanoJanuary 17, 2007 11:24 AM

I think that this is a clear indication that the folks responsible for preventing terrorists are still entirely used to dealing with dumb criminals who actually can be caught by asking, on some form, "have you robbed a bank in the past 5 years?"

Chris SJanuary 17, 2007 11:25 AM

A bakery??? And .. it's not on the fundraising list, it's on the terrorist list.

Maybe because they use white powders...

(page 2, number 3)

KeithJanuary 17, 2007 11:34 AM

Just noticed that you're not allowed be a solicitor for anyone on the lists. So much for that old "fair trial" bunkum.

Martin SchröderJanuary 17, 2007 11:57 AM

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is now a member of the nepal parliament, i.e. the terrorists of today (or yesterday in this case) are the ministers of tomorrow. But the list ist from 2006-07...

JeffJanuary 17, 2007 12:01 PM

Didn't we talk about this point a while ago? The purpose isn't to catch the terrorist supporter while they are filling out the form, it is to give the FBI a reason to arrest and hold you if they somehow connect you to a terrorist organization. Lying on a gov't form is so much more easy to prove than actual terrorism. They get to hold you as long as a judge will let them while they dig and look for real dirt.

This isn't security theatre. It might be oppressive, but its not theatre.

phesslerJanuary 17, 2007 12:09 PM

this reminds me of a scene in _Good Morning Vietnam_, in which Robin Williams' character is pretending to inverview someone from Military Intelligence.

"We go up to vietnamese, and ask them 'Are you the enemy?' If they say 'Yes', then we shoot them."

hermanJanuary 17, 2007 12:46 PM

> Make sure your birthdate is post 1970, then answer 'yes'
> on the Holocaust question when entering the US.

Only do this if you don't mind being denied entry to the US for the next 20 years.

JimMcJanuary 17, 2007 12:54 PM

This seems lock-tight and fool-proof. I don't know how anyone could get past this. Well done Ohio!

AlanJanuary 17, 2007 12:55 PM

>> Make sure your birthdate is post 1970, then >>answer 'yes'
>> on the Holocaust question when entering >>the US.

>Only do this if you don't mind being denied
>entry to the US for the next 20 years.

With the current government, that might not be such a bad idea.

RoyJanuary 17, 2007 12:59 PM

When I was in high school, our principal went on a loyalty-oath binge, to the point that we had to sign a new loyalty oath to get each report card. Weirdly -- or maybe not -- after all these years I find the resentment still festers.

More to the point, this certification nonsense is based on a childlike comprehension of lying. Consider the following exchange:

Q: Are you a terrorist?
A: No. (Inner voice: "But ask me again in about 30 minutes, and -- Allah u Ahkbar -- kaboom!")

The respondent did not lie, but he withheld crucial truth. So what did the query accomplish?

Valdis KletnieksJanuary 17, 2007 1:01 PM

@bonusdays re: the Boy Scouts..

My grandfather was exiled from Latvia when the Soviets came through after WWII, mostly because he was a Scouting leader at the national level. Scouting leaders *never* get along with despotic totalitarian regimes.

So you may be more right than you know....

Aaron LuchkoJanuary 17, 2007 1:05 PM

Heh, Al-Queda isn't on the list.

Though that makes me wonder, I believe being a member of a terrorist organization (like Al-Queda) is illegal. Therefore are the organizations listed here the ones where having membership isn't actually illegal but DHS still doesn't trust?

bobJanuary 17, 2007 1:30 PM

I hope they dont accidentally copy the list of pilots into the no-fly list...

When I last flew into the (late lamented and sadly missed) Meigs airport in Chicago (the Fourth Reich) as part of the landing fee there they charged me $8 for security. The security consisted of a rent-a-cop writing down my DRIVER'S license number. Good thing I happened to have one on me.

JilaraJanuary 17, 2007 1:49 PM

I volunteer with California State Parks and Rec, and for the couple decades I've been doing it, we have to sign a loyalty oath that basically says we won't use our position as a park volunteer to subvert the state or the country. Which of course always makes you go "Um, how?" I don't know. I suppose one could plant bombs in the restrooms or something. (Which makes me think of the porta-potties that have the sign about how throwing burning material into them is a Federal offense.)

I am not now, nor have I ever been...January 17, 2007 2:07 PM

I thought the days of the loyalty oath were over. I can't believe they make park volunteers do this. It's insane.

Some may remember during the Red Scare they made University of California faculty sign a loyalty oath. Those who refused on principle were fired.
http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/~ucalhist/archives_exhibits/loyaltyoath/

I don't see what this achieved. People who propose this should be reminded that fascism is against our consitution just as much as terrorism is.

RealistJanuary 17, 2007 2:15 PM

...and thus the US continues its downward spiral, becoming more and more like the very totalitarians it railed against during the Cold War....

FPJanuary 17, 2007 2:24 PM

The I-94W form for the Visa Waiver program has already been prominently mentioned. See http://www.immihelp.com/visas/i-94w.html for a copy. It asks, "have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities." It's also fun to read that "if you entered "Yes" to any of the above, please contact the American Embassy BEFORE you travel," when this form is only handed out during the flight into the US.

As for the original topic, Germany has already introduced a more drastic measure for all pilots a couple years ago, the "reliability test." It requires you to prove to the authorities that you are not a threat to aviation. For citizens, it mostly involves signing a waiver of your constitutional rights, so that the pilot license-granting authority can request any police and secret service files that might exist, as well as traffic tickets and other records that normally wouldn't be accessible to them.

There are no standards for this test, so you are subjecting yourself to the interpretation of the official that handles your file. People have been cross-examined over their parking tickets or over their presumed involvement in left-wing demonstrations. People that have lived abroad have been asked for statements from other countries' agencies that are near-impossible to obtain, much less so in a timely manner.

If you refuse to sign the waiver, then you are not granted a pilot's license.

I guess we can all safely assume that similar database searches are performed for US pilots.

AnonymousJanuary 17, 2007 2:42 PM

>> Heh, Al-Queda isn't on the list.
Yes it is, you've obviously fallen foul of the transliteration.

RickJanuary 17, 2007 2:59 PM

I've always wondered about how to answer questions of moral turpitude. Whose standards do I use?

To a fundamentalist Mormon, drinking whiskey is worse than polygamy.

WHat about countries that have different laws? Some illegal acts in the US are not illegal elsewhere. Do any of those count as moral turpitude? How would anyone know?

And to what level does an act have to sink to become turpitude? Lying, but only in serious matters? Only perjury?

What about sex? Pre-marital sex is fornication. An affair is adultery. Those used to get you stoned to death. Now, they aren't even illegal in some states, i.e. you can't be prosecuted simply for the act. You may be prosecuted for certain conditions (underage sex) or you may be sued in civil court (lose a divorce trial), but the acts are neither misdemeanors or felonies.

And what about stealing? If I was caught shoplifting gum when I was a teen, does that count? How about shoplifting a camera? What if I wasn't caught, and admitting to "moral turpitude" on a form would constitute self-incrimination, which the Fifth Amendment says I have a right to avoid by remaining silent?

bobJanuary 17, 2007 3:05 PM

The thing that PO'ed the AOPA is the duplicity.

They are required to make this "loyalty oath", yet before this oath was required, they were also enlisted as observers who were to keep an eye out for suspicious activities.

So it's this vast gulf of trust between "We trust you to tell us of suspicious actions" and "We don't trust you to have the nation's interests at heart without a separate oath" that's got them riled up. Seems pretty obvious to me. The right answer is to require EVERYONE to make a loyalty oath, and renew it every month. Because we don't have nearly enough bureaucracy in place to make sure that people are really doing what they ought to be doing. Oh, and we'll need a special Politician Oversight Patrol, because if there's one area of American life that's always rife with scandal, it's politics.

Yup, I'd vote for that.

gee whizJanuary 17, 2007 3:12 PM

Someone should mail packages that say:
"This is not a bomb".
Mark your luggage this way. Inside, leave a note that says, "I told you this is not a bomb".
Wear a t-shirt through security that says, "I am not a terrorist".

These things would make as much sense as asking people if they are terrorists and expecting them to answer honestly (you're just answering before they ask in a written way).

Sillyness. Sillyness that could land you in jail or "detained" if you approach it with a sense of humor.

sysadmnJanuary 17, 2007 3:31 PM

Um, what does Ohio have to do with issuing aviation pilot's licenses? Isn't that a province of the FAA? If you look at the pdf, "pilot and engineers" license is listed under the Department of Natural Resources. I'd guess it refers to ships and boats; i.e., pilots who are not aviators, and engineers who actually run engines.

I was very glad to see the fireworks manufacturer down the road could not be a terrorist. His buildings are 1/2 mile from any other, just in case.

Geoff LaneJanuary 17, 2007 3:54 PM

@Jilara (Which makes me think of the porta-potties that have the sign about how throwing burning material into them is a Federal offense.)

Strange. That particular offense never made it as a plot in The X-Files.

The problem with "a list" is that the Peoples Front of Judea this week is the Popular Judean Front for the People next and The Front for the Judean People the week after that.

Far better would be to have a generic declaration of not being a terrorist or supporting a terrorist agenda.

Even better would be to actually CATCH THE TERRORISTS and stop treating everybody as potential criminals.

Davi OttenheimerJanuary 17, 2007 4:34 PM

Hmmm, reminds me again of how the French Intelligence warned of Zacarias Moussaoui's connections to Chechen terrorists (under French definition), but the US administration in 2001 was highly doubtful or perhaps in denial about the relevance of a connection to rebels in Chechnya...maybe the forms should just have a checkbox for "connected to a group that should be considered a foreign power."

http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/entity.jsp?entity=radical_fundamentalist_unit

jon liveseyJanuary 17, 2007 4:38 PM

I wonder why the IRA is on there at all. Aren't we trying to get back to the golden age when terrorism was just a "nuisance". The IRA was in full swing then - hence the cynicism of some people in Europe about a war on terror that only started when the US was attacked.

Matt from CTJanuary 17, 2007 5:48 PM

@Jon Livesey...

The War On Terror began in 1993? Or would you put it with the more significant act of terror in 1995 as when we "only started when the US was attacked." Nah, must be '93 because you can find acts similiar to but smaller scale of '95 throughout our history.

@Davi...
lmfao at the "group that should be considered..." I need to add that to a form someday :D

Nick LancasterJanuary 17, 2007 5:48 PM


The 'if they lie, then we can convict them for lying on their application' makes sense ... to a point.

If you lack the evidence to prove the suspect pilot is actually a terrorist, lying on their application isn't going to do much, unless we start slapping heavy fines and sentences for something that could be easily disputed by any competent lawyer.

It *might* deter the most borderline folks, the ones thinking they'll go join the great jihad and prove to their brothers in the Middle East that they are one (does anyone REALLY talk like that?) ... but the FBI has had to coach such suspects through loyalty oaths, or arrange to trade stereo equipment with them.

BobCJanuary 17, 2007 7:35 PM

Ohio goes much further than that. All public employees get to certify that they don't contri bute to the listed terrorist gropus EVERY YEAR.

Alton NaurJanuary 17, 2007 8:01 PM

Bruce, you make the fundamental error of thinking that all terrorists are as smart as you are. As Jay Leno observes every Monday in his "headlines" segment, there are an awful lot of really stupid criminals out there. There are a lot of really stupid terrorists out there too. After all, is it smart to want to blow yourself up? The really smart terrorists get other people to blow themselves up. A lot of these people are stupid enough to answer "yes" if you ask them whether they're terrorists. These questions will catch them.

Bruce SchneierJanuary 17, 2007 10:48 PM

"Bruce, you make the fundamental error of thinking that all terrorists are as smart as you are. As Jay Leno observes every Monday in his 'headlines' segment, there are an awful lot of really stupid criminals out there. There are a lot of really stupid terrorists out there too. After all, is it smart to want to blow yourself up? The really smart terrorists get other people to blow themselves up. A lot of these people are stupid enough to answer 'yes' if you ask them whether they're terrorists. These questions will catch them."

A lot?

How many have we gotten so far?

Bruce SchneierJanuary 17, 2007 10:50 PM

"The 'if they lie, then we can convict them for lying on their application' makes sense ... to a point."

No it doesn't. The only way to prove someone lied on their application is to prove that they're a terrorist. And once you proved they're a terrorist, you don't need to also prove that they've lied on their application.

It's simple logic.

CMJanuary 18, 2007 1:29 AM

FP:
> If you refuse to sign the waiver, then you are not granted a pilot's license.

Similar situation in Australia.
We have background checks every 2 years. (and pay for those checks).
grrrrrrr. poli*%&#(!^ticians.

HulluJanuary 18, 2007 2:24 AM

"There are a lot of really stupid terrorists out there too."
There are a lot of terrorists? Really?:)

John DaviesJanuary 18, 2007 2:53 AM

@Alton Naur

"After all, is it smart to want to blow yourself up?"

Please tell me that you're just trolling, otherwise you've got an awful lot to learn

supersnailJanuary 18, 2007 4:12 AM

Love item 52 in the third list "The Pentagon Gang" aka. "The Bush Family"?.

This whole thing is just as silly as the "I am not and never have been (a member of the Communist Part/Drug Dealer/Homosexual) question that used to be on the immigration forms.

FredericJanuary 18, 2007 5:59 AM

@Martin Schröder

The mention of The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) reminds me that while I was trekking in Nepal last year, I got stopped at some point by them, who explained calmly that they were the "second government of Nepal" and that I had to pay the "tourist tax" (1-2$ per day) for the duration of my trek. They thanked me, and even gave me an official looking receipt, in case I would meet some of their colleagues later on the trek.

Trek organisers tell you about this in advance, the Lonely Planet mentions it too; I tried to discuss, but was told that it was the "law"; they had no apparent weapons but there were enough people to make it clear that I had no other choice but pay. And many thousands of tourists do the same every year.

Now, if I ever have to fill in a form similar to the one linked by Bruce, I'd have to say "Yes" to question 5, no ? And I would be in trouble, for sure...

Which brings me to a more general question: why do people believe that complex question can always be summarised by a simple "Yes" or "No" ? Why don't they provide some free space and say "If you answered yes to any question, please provide details below".

Frederic

geezardJanuary 18, 2007 10:02 AM

Interesting on the list were:

10. Global Relief Foundation (United States)
11. Benevolence International Foundation (United States)
21. The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (United States)

So, these are "known" terrorist organizations, and they are in the UNITED STATES, so... I know, let's just ban their members from getting pilots licenses. Or maybe they aren't "known" but are just suspected, so... I know, let's tell them we suspect them by putting them on a terrorist exclusion list!

KeesJanuary 18, 2007 10:44 AM

@ Frederic: 'Why don't they provide some free space and say "If you answered yes to any question, please provide details below".'

Because then the scrutinezers of the document would have to stop and think about the answer which might be a in grey area. That could pop their fuses.

"You're either with us or against us". GW Bush in a televised speech right after 9/11.

KeesJanuary 18, 2007 10:45 AM

@ Frederic: 'Why don't they provide some free space and say "If you answered yes to any question, please provide details below".'

Because then the scrutinezers of the document would have to stop and think about the answer which might be a in grey area. That could pop their fuses.

"You're either with us or against us". GW Bush in a televised speech right after 9/11.

AlexJanuary 18, 2007 11:09 AM

Ok, I am sure most people would agree that kidnapping an innocent person, holding him captive for no apparent reason and subjecting him to torture could be called a form of terrorism.

In this case, should the Bush administration itself be named as a terrorist organisation? :-)

kikoJanuary 18, 2007 12:27 PM

It is even more ominous than described. I was told to fill out this form as the standard bundle for graduate assistants.

XellosJanuary 18, 2007 1:19 PM

It's obvious some people need to read more. This whole thing reminds me very much of The Great Loyalty Oath Crusade in Catch-22.

"Almost overnight the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade was in full flower, and Captain Black was enraptured to discover himself spearheading it. "The important thing is to keep them pledging," he explained to his cohorts. "It doesn't matter whether they mean it or not. That's why they make little kids pledge allegiance even before they know what 'pledge' and 'allegiance' mean." He had really hit on something."
--Joseph Heller (Catch-22)

Jake BrodskyJanuary 18, 2007 7:49 PM

So. Ohio wants aircraft owners and pilots to sign a loyalty oath. That's interesting. I've flown over and to Ohio many times. I don't live there. Do I have to state the oath when I fly over their fair state or do I just have to say it when I land? Man, I can just imagine what the air traffic control frequencies would sound like if we had to make our sworn proclamations before getting clearance to fly over the state.

But hey, if Ohio thinks this is a good idea, why not take it a step further? Let's have every truck driver promise that they're not carrying a truck bomb. Better still, we've all seen the damage a car bomb can wreak. Why not have car owners sign a similar pledge? Train engineers? How about boat owners?

Disclosure: I am a private pilot and airplane owner. I am a member of AOPA.

erasmusJanuary 19, 2007 3:58 AM

Of course a signature does not prove anything.
But if you sign this sort of disclaimer then the authority does not need to go to any trouble to revoke your access should they discover that you lied. And they may be able to prosecute you for giving a false declaration.

If they didn't request this then they would have to take you court and prove that you were a bad guy.
(If this was such a sin they should take you to court anyway, but its bureaucratically easier like this, and gets you off their hands quickly)

TarkeelJanuary 19, 2007 5:14 AM

Just remember to tick of "yes" on the "are you a terrorist" questions.

The last definition of terrorist that I bothered to read in the PATRIOT act was broad enough include most people. It went something like "anyone that has done economic transactions with a terrorist, regardless of knowledge that the other person was or was not a terrorist."

This, if you have traded with someone who has traded with someone who has... (ad nauseum), then you are also per definition a terrorist. Good luck living with the mountain-men to avoid being a terrorist.

jeffJanuary 19, 2007 11:10 AM

@bruce

>"The 'if they lie, then we can convict them for lying on their application' makes sense ... to a point."

>No it doesn't. The only way to prove someone lied on their application is to prove that they're a terrorist. And once you proved they're a terrorist, you don't need to also prove that they've lied on their application.

>It's simple logic.

Bruce, I really hate to disagree with you, but I believe your position weakens your valid arguments against security theatre.

You are missing two very important and very valid points. First, the quality and quantity of evidence necessary to arrest and hold someone on a charge is very different from that required to actually convict. Second, the form asks questions regarding membership in, support for, and interactions with organizations on a list. You don't have to be an actual terrorist (in any rational definition of the term) to be in a position to have to answer yes to one or more of those questions.

Certainly, if you have to answer yes to one of those, the gov't might want to look at your background in more detail, but merely having to answer yes doesn't mean you're a terrorist. And even more certainly, lying about those connections really, really makes you an interesting investigatee.

If you get caught lying about those connections there is a real practical benefit for the investigator to be able to arrest and hold you while they dig deep into your background. And ignoring this does yourself a disservice.

M. Knott LionJanuary 23, 2007 12:03 AM

Pennsylvania's pretty paradox.

Trustworthy people will answer "No". Liars and dangerous criminals will also answer "No". Only the latter won't care that they've lied on a state firearms form.

Why does this feel like a puzzle in a Raymond Smullyan book?

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

Personally, I have to admire anyone with such logic skills who intentionally looks like Gandalf the White.

WesJanuary 23, 2007 11:10 AM

The real problem is not the questions that are being asked, but that answers aren't verified. All we have to do is require each person filling in the form to also undergo a lie detector test. Then we'd have real security.

WouterFebruary 15, 2007 4:56 AM

Here in South Africa, when I buy powder for reloading, I have to fill in a form where I state what I want to use the powder for. Choices are, presumably, "reloading" and "blowing up parliament".

Yup, it's a rule the police made and all gun stores (the few who are left, that is) have to abide by it.

puzzled citizen and do terrorist lieFebruary 15, 2007 2:15 PM

I don't know if you have bought a house recently, but when my wife and
I just purchased our new home there were a few extra forms to the
already never ending list we had to sign.


1) We would not use the house for terrorist activities, of course if I
was a terrorist I would of course be an honest one.
2) We would not use the house for illegal activities . . . drugs and so
on, of course if I was a drug dealer I would be an honest one.
3) We had to sign a form that said we had read, agreed to and signed
all the other forms we had signed, of course if I had lied on all the
others I would not lie on this one.
4) When selling our previous home we had to sign forms saying we hadn't
used it for the list above and of course if I had I would be an honest
miscreant and not lie on this one.

All of us at these closings just shook our heads and like good little
soldiers signed the forms.

I wonder what a bad little soldier would have done.

Craig WelchFebruary 15, 2007 5:52 PM

"Similar situation in Australia.
We have background checks every 2 years. (and pay for those checks)."

Allegedly. In reality the background checks are not carried out. We just pay for them.

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Co3 Systems, Inc..