The nation’s terrorist watch list has hit one million names, according to an ACLU tally based on the government’s own reported numbers.
“Members of Congress, nuns, war heroes and other `suspicious characters,’ with names like Robert Johnson and Gary Smith, have become trapped in the Kafkaesque clutches of this list, with little hope of escape,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Congress needs to fix it, the Terrorist Screening Center needs to fix it, or the next president needs to fix it, but it has to be done soon.”
That’s one million names, but many times that the number of people this pointlessly excessive list routinely sweeps up in our nation’s Bushian paranoia. I happen to know one of the thousands of Robert Johnsons on the list, and he has indeed been taken aside by airport security for extra interrogation and inspection. (Though it could have just been his graying hippy ponytail that sparked their suspicion.)
So what exactly is the point of a terrorist watch list that nearly everybody is on? As I once joked after trolls gloated about the consequences I’d suffer for writing a satirical post in response to the clearly bogus plot to blow up JFK Airport… if one really wants to shut down air traffic out of New York City, just put “David Goldstein” on the terrorist watch list.
At one million strong, this list is either inaccurate and overly broad to the point of being useless… or we as a nation need to do some serious introspection about how we’ve managed to piss off so many people to the point where over one million domestic air travelers have dedicated their lives to murdering American civilians. (Though perhaps, domestic air travel itself these days is motive enough.)
David Cohen emails to say:
You wrote today, “if one really wants to shut down air traffic out of New York City, just put “David Goldstein” on the terrorist watch list.” Well, the name “David Cohen” is already on the list. It doesn’t lead to extra searches any more–now they just check my ID to verify that my birthdate doesn’t match the one they’re looking for–but I can never check in electronically any more. If I try to print a boarding pass at home or even use one of the kiosks at the airport, the screen tells me to slowly back away and put my hands on top of my… well, I have to wait in line at the ticketing area and have my identity checked out. I wonder how many other David Cohens have to put up with the same thing; and I really pity the ones who share a birthday with the fellow they’re hoping to catch. Isn’t it surreal? “David Cohen.” We’re all terrorists now.