U.S. is One Small Step Closer to Making No-Fly List Less Harassing

The House approved a bill creating a whitelist of people who are on the blacklist, but shouldn't be. No word yet about what they're going to do about people who are on the whitelist, but shouldn't be. Perhaps they'll create a second blacklist for them. Then we'll all be safe from terrorists, for sure.

Posted on February 9, 2009 at 12:00 PM • 47 Comments

Comments

Tangerine BlueFebruary 9, 2009 12:16 PM

Perhaps [they'll] create another blacklist [for people who are on the whitelist, but shouldn't be.]

It would be so awesome to be the first guy erroneously blacklisted from the whitelist of erroneously blacklisted white people. I'm calling Cat Stevens.

NicolaFebruary 9, 2009 12:41 PM

I'm rolling on the floor laughing.
It's more bureaucratic than the old ussr...
This is a good challenge: one journalist could try to be put in the blacklist, then on the whitelist of the blacklist, than on the BL of the WL of the BL, so on...
Amazing

KashmarekFebruary 9, 2009 1:03 PM

After the collapse of the former Soviet Union, I saw one or two cable TV shows about the horrendous amount of paperwork that was held by government agencies on people (citizens, suspected or not).

After 9/11, along comes TIA (now defunct Total Information Awareness, now re-incarnated as some off-shore organization doing the same thing).

They don't get it. The data is out of date after it is captured. And the lists (of lists of lists of lists ad nauseum) are worthless when the rules change.

This could be funny if it weren't so sad.

should be workingFebruary 9, 2009 1:10 PM

So, would the way to exploit this be to get oneself on the blacklist, then on the whitelist to avoid avoid extra-attention in the security line?

the mind boggles at the irony that it requires an act of congress to force a bureaucracy to admit an error.

CGomezFebruary 9, 2009 1:11 PM

Congress creates the bureaucracies, and has the power to override their rulings with law. The fact that they choose to do nothing puts errors back on them.

RHFebruary 9, 2009 1:33 PM

I'm trying to make sense of this... would Kurt Gödel be on the black list, or the white list?

KingTimFebruary 9, 2009 1:44 PM

Lists of lists...the simplest thing would be to run a query on all the lists and divide the number you're on by 2. If it's even you're white-listed. Odd you're black-listed....

Unix RoninFebruary 9, 2009 2:11 PM

You'd think it'd be simpler to just remove the incorrect entries from the blacklist. If they don't know which are the incorrect entries on the blacklist, how the heck are they going to compile the whitelist?

MiramonFebruary 9, 2009 2:56 PM

Oh. I was expecting a mandatory enforced namechange for people on the black->whitelist. That would be the easy solution. After all, the actual terrorists, assuming they exist, presumably don't use their real names, either.

For this reason, it's almost inconceivable that anyone would seriously make use of the blacklist to begin with. You'd think after some TSA genius added "Edward Kennedy" that there might have been an intelligent response, but no....

Do they really imagine that these brilliant terrorists, with their dual-liquid bombs, their sophisticated Google-Maps targeting strategy, and their various other beautiful cinematic plans will just use their real names when buying plane tickets? Like it's that hard for these organized armies of foes we're at war with to get a passport in another name? For heaven's sake!

MiramonFebruary 9, 2009 2:58 PM

> I'm trying to make sense of this... would Kurt Gödel be on the black list, or the white list?

RH, dunno about Gödel, but I'm pretty sure Cantor would be on the list of lists that doesn't contain him.

Adrian LopezFebruary 9, 2009 3:01 PM

How difficult will it be to get on the whitelist? Is it enough to not be a terrorist, or will the bar be set so high that people the government doesn't like won't be able to get on that list?

Grant GouldFebruary 9, 2009 3:16 PM

Wouldn't a red-black list be more efficient for the amount of inserting they're going to have to do?

NostromoFebruary 9, 2009 3:19 PM

We can all enjoy a good laugh at the idiocy of it all.

But spare a thought for the huge disruption caused to the lives of the people on the blacklist (at least 90% of whom are not terrorists). It's not funny to them.

NostromoFebruary 9, 2009 3:25 PM

I just checked the link. How do you get on the whitelist, if you are currently one of the approximately 1,000,000 people on the blacklist?

"victims of the terrorist watchlist must prove to the Department of Homeland Security, through an undetermined appeals process, that they are not terrorists."

Yeah, right. Just like that. The whitelist will exist, so the politicians will have Solved The Problem. There just won't be any names on the whitelist.

Nick DangerFebruary 9, 2009 3:25 PM

I think Congress should call the white list the "Presumed Innocent" list. Then I can wave a copy of the Bill of Rights at them and force them to put me on this new list.

anonFebruary 9, 2009 3:30 PM

@Nick Danger
Yeah, cause waving the Bill of Rights has stopped them from violating it in the past.

BetaFebruary 9, 2009 3:40 PM

@Miramon: "I'm pretty sure Cantor would be on the list of lists that doesn't contain him."

I think you're thinking of the Russell List, which is a list of all lists that do not list themselves. If there's a Master List of all lists, maybe the Cantor list is a list where the Nth person on it is NOT the Nth person on the Nth list (from the Master List).

I think my favorite would be the Hofstadter list, of people who believe that Douglas Hofstader isn't on it.

Now for some that would be funny if they weren't coming true: a list of names that can follow "suspected terrorist" on the evening news without arousing skepticism, and the Link List of people who are real terrorists or know someone on the Link List.

CassandraFebruary 9, 2009 4:47 PM

I think the whitelist should be renamed the Jedi list.

sfx: Alec Guiness theatrical voice: -


"This is not the John Smith you are looking for."

JurjenFebruary 9, 2009 4:54 PM

With that many lists, shouldn't there be a list of inaccurate lists? Let's call that the black-and-white list-blacklist.

Nick DangerFebruary 9, 2009 8:30 PM

@anon at February 9, 2009 3:30 PM
"Yeah, cause waving the Bill of Rights has stopped them from violating it in the past."

Sarcasm is a subtle thing.

Kermit The BogFebruary 9, 2009 8:47 PM

RH> I'm trying to make sense of this... would Kurt Gödel be on the black list, or the white list?

I don't think it can be decided

AviatrixFebruary 9, 2009 9:03 PM

Ooh, I'm not on the blacklist, but I'll see if I can get on the whitelist, just in case someone with my name gets on the blacklist.

MarcFebruary 9, 2009 10:32 PM

It's a cunning plan. Anyone wanting to be on the whitelist is obviously a terrorist trying to bypass the blacklist

SSFebruary 10, 2009 4:03 AM

"Lists of lists...the simplest thing would be to run a query on all the lists and divide the number you're on by 2. If it's even you're white-listed. Odd you're black-listed...."
Hah! That's actually pretty good.
To be serious though, is the list-problem really a problem? Granted, a million people is on it. That's very likely not right. But should there be no list at all? I'm pretty certain that there are people out there - quite a lot of them in fact, that I would not like having in the seat next to me on my next flight. Or in the plane at all, in fact.
All right, you've been blacklisted for no reason. Sucks. But that guy beneath you on the list should definitely be on it. In fact...how about a red list? :P

BillFebruary 10, 2009 6:18 AM

The threat will transfer to areas where people congregate - schools, shops, hospitals, airport-security-queues etc.

Because nobody walks, everybody drives, then we simply need a 'No Parking list' and a 'Yes Parking list'.

Traffic wardens will need to carry firearms of course.

AnonymousFebruary 10, 2009 6:33 AM

funny how many references to phyis...fissi...fiizzizzizsts (screw it). I flash on Einstein's cosmological constant. Created to balance his equations rather than accept the quantum reality.

@anon ... A paper cut is a scary thing and it hurts.

Another KevinFebruary 10, 2009 6:50 AM

@SS: "I'm pretty certain that there are people out there - quite a lot of them in fact, that I would not like having in the seat next to me on my next flight. Or in the plane at all, in fact."

If they're innocent of any crime, why are you worried? If they're guilty, why aren't you campaigining to have them put in prison, rather than on some amorphous blacklist? I'm sorry, but "making SS feel profoundly uncomfortable," or even "making Janet Napolitano or Michael Chertoff feel profoundly uncomfortable" is not a reason to keep someone from traveling in a country that prides itself on freedom.

xd0sFebruary 10, 2009 10:01 AM

@BL

Well since TSA won't open the box that contains the cat until it gets through the xray machine, we can assume that the cat is both living and dead at the time of list creation. This means the poor cat might actually be on the list twice, since we know being dead is no reason for removal from the list. :)

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

Tom DavisFebruary 10, 2009 9:01 PM

It would probably be better to implement greylisting: just deny everyone entry to the restricted zone on first attempt and then allow everyone who makes a second attempt to pass through.

SSFebruary 11, 2009 8:39 AM

@Another Kevin;

"making SS feel profoundly uncomfortable," // "is not a reason to keep someone from traveling in a country that prides itself on freedom."

That made me laugh. You know what, you're absolutely right. Making SS feel profoundly uncomfortable is not a crime at all, and if it was, a lot of people would have landed in jail over the years.
However, being affiliated with terrorists or other forms of criminality really does warrant close follow up, and even if I'm (profoundly) uncomfortable deep down about any kind of list like this, I do see the need to prevent some individuals from boarding airliners.

mooFebruary 11, 2009 12:28 PM

@Grant Gould:
"Wouldn't a red-black list be more efficient for the amount of inserting they're going to have to do?"

That was a most excellent comment. =)

BetaFebruary 12, 2009 2:24 PM

@SS

You persist in saying that "some individuals" should not be allowed to fly, with no criterion other than your not wanting to fly with them or their being "affiliated with criminality", whatever that means. I'm really curious: if your name (or one like it) appears on the list, will you protest? Or will you quietly accept that you're not fit to rub elbows with decent people?

McCoy PauleyFebruary 12, 2009 2:41 PM

Oh, and we need a list of Liszts, so somebody doesn't get onboard and begin impaling people with a baton.

RandyFebruary 13, 2009 11:41 AM

I didn't see mention of a blacklist for non-blacklisted people who should be blacklisted. Don't forget those people. Honestly, we can't be secure unless we created an unlisted blacklist, too, which contains people who are not on any blacklist that need to be blacklisted and prevented from gaining whitelisted listing on the blacklist whitelist. Won't somebody think of the children?

JTFebruary 15, 2009 11:14 AM

You all are seeing a massive missed opertunity. Why just 2 lists... why not 5. Thats right. 5
Hmmm... We can give another justification of the HomeSec by borrowing from something from them. I give you: The Homeland Security NoFly List Advisory System

Severe - RED - People that are Terrorists

High - Orange - People we think are terrorists

Elevated - Yellow - People that probably arent terrorists, but we feel safer by putting them on a list

Gaurded - Blue - People we dont like that we want to annoy

Low - Green - People that appear to be normal Americans... and since they appear normal, we'd better watch them. After all the terrorists could have finally figured out how to emulate normal people.

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