Wednesday, December 02, 2015

San Bernardino And The No-Fly List

If I were wont to believe conspiracy theories, I'd swear that the National Rifle Association. in an attempt to boost its membership rolls, paid President Obama to respond to today's dreadful mass murder in San Bernardino by insinuating to CBS News that the grossly unconstitutional No Fly List should become even more gross:
"For those who are concerned about terrorism, some may be aware of the fact that we have a no-fly list where people can't get on planes," Mr. Obama said, "but those same people who we don't allow to fly could go into a store right now in the United States and buy a firearm, and there's nothing we can do to stop them. That's a law that needs to be changed."

Indeed, though Obama and I disagree on exactly which law that is; I'd say scrap the No Fly List, which security expert Bruce Schneier famously described as “a list of suspected terrorists so dangerous that we can't ever let them fly, yet so innocent that we can't arrest them - even under the draconian provisions of the Patriot Act.” 

You don't even have to be dangerous to make it on the No Fly List, which includes the names of journalists who merely criticized the TSA or "put TSA in an unfavorable light." I wouldn't be surprised to find my own name on the list in retaliation for all the various anti-TSA articles I published in the Guardian, though I can't say for certain since I haven't attempted to fly since the TSA started fondling people's genitals in airports.

In 2011, an honorably discharged Marine Corps veteran (and then-current dog trainer) named Abe Mashal got on the list after exchanging emails with an imam on "how to raise children in an interfaith household" -- Mashal was Muslim, and his wife a Christian.

And of course the No Fly List also covers people who merely share names or initials with other people on it. The late Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy got on the No Fly List in summer 2004 -- more specifically, a "T. Kennedy" did, which was all it took to ground the senator and any of the other tens of thousands of T. Kennedys in America.

I personally have a non-terrorist (and thoroughly whitebread) friend who almost got stranded in Canada a few years ago, unable to fly because, as he described to me later, "sixty thousand people in the US have or use my name, and hey, some David Smith somewhere was a bad guy, so better ground all of them until we can sort it out." 

That's all it takes to get on a U.S. government bad-guy list nowadays. And after 14 people were murdered in San Bernardino today, President Obama responded by saying how freaking terrible it is that the government can't use the No Fly List to violate even more of the rights of the people on it.


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