A Philosopher's Blog

The Watch List Again

Posted in Politics by Michael LaBossiere on July 30, 2008

Drew Griffin, a CNN reporter, has been on the TSA watch list for quite some time now. He has been taking steps to get off the list, but they have proved fruitless. As to why he is on the list, the main reason seems to be that he was critical of the TSA. As to why he cannot get off the list, it might be the nature of all bureaucracies: wrongs are inflicted immediately, righting wrongs takes time. Or perhaps the people in charge are acting out of spite and leaving him on the list as some sort of punishment.

The list has, according to the ACLU, grown to over one million names. There is some dispute over how many people are on the list, however. This is because some individuals are listed under many names. The current estimate is that there are a bit under half a million people on the list (under various names).

According to CNN there are many people on the list who have been trying to get their names removed for quite some time. Many of these people are unsure as to why they ended up on the list and numerous people, such as Griffin, certainly do not seem to belong on it. The ACLU provides numerous examples of people who are on the list. They range from decorated soldiers to members of Congress. Clearly just the sort of people who are a danger to America.

Given that the list is supposed to be a vital instrument in the war on terror, the TSA should do a better job making sure that it is accurate. After all, if there are people on the list who do not belong, time and resources will be wasted dealing with the innocent and this makes it easier for the real terrorists. Further, it creates needless problems for the people who should not be on the list.

The TSA has taken some action. However, this action seems to mainly to claim that the airlines should be doing a better job with the list. However, the last time I checked, Delta was not a federal law enforcement or security agency. As such, passing the buck to the airlines is unreasonable and it is the job of the TSA to provide proper lists. Apparently the TSA plans to do something about the problems-next year.

Of course, the list is just one example of the serious failures of the Bush administration. I acknowledge the importance of effective security (there are, obviously enough, people who want to kill us) and the value of effective lists. However, the Bush administration has failed to deliver that security and that list. Instead, it has squandered billions of dollars, created vast bureaucracies and caused innocent people needless problems. The broken state of American security is outlined in a recent study, lest anyone think I am simply saying that the sky is falling.

Some will no doubt suspect that I am just taking cheap shots at Bush. However, my real motivation is not to attack him and his minions. My motivation is that I want my country to be safe and Bush has failed us horribly in this regard. The next President will inherit one heck of a security mess and will need to sort out this situation in order to protect America. I hope that he is up to the job but I worry that the mess will simply continue until something horrible happens.


7 Responses

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  1. magus71 said, on July 30, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    How has the administartion failed to deliver security? Has it not added measures to the American secuirty net that was in place when Bush took office? People have howled about the Patriot Act like it was the unfurling of a Nazi flag.

    Let’s look at Israel’s security. Soldiers armed with Galil assault rifles in the terminals. El Al is the safest airline in the world.

    I’m sure Barak has the answer to tough questions, or he can at least find the answer in the latest CNN opinion poll. It’s like Wikipedia for Democrats.

  2. Michael LaBossiere said, on July 31, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    For example, see the study cited above. As another example, see the article I mention in my post on the watch list (Scientific America).

    The objective evidence is that the Bush administration has failed to provide to deliver adequate security. I think the study is quite clear about this.

    Israel does have good security. We should, too. That is my point.

    It remains to be seen if Obama (or McCain) can provide a fix for the security problem. However, it is a real problem and does need to be fixed.

    But, suppose that I am wrong. Suppose that Bush’s people have done a crackerjack job at security. Now, suppose that my advice is followed and steps are taken to make security even better. Would that be a bad thing? Or is the security system so good that any change must, of necessity, be a change for the worse?

  3. magus71 said, on July 31, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    So you’d be for soldiers with assault rifles in every airport terminal? Most Americans wouldn’t, I suspect.

  4. magus71 said, on July 31, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    As the article about the study says: “The report barely mentions the post-9/11 reforms already undertaken, including the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the office of the director of national intelligence and the National Counterterrorism Center.”

    There are many more security measures in place than before Bush’s terms. Anything can be made better, but we’re along way from Clinton’s ideas of security. There have been many, many terrorist plots that have been broken up, here and abroad; hundreds actually–many don’t make the news.

    How can I trust Obama, someone who still denies the surge worked, to know what is needed for security. He’s not too fond of the dumb people in the military–dumb people like Gen. Patraeus with two PHDs.

  5. Mike Rozos said, on August 3, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    For TSA to maintain any active, prolific, reporter of a large news agency on its watch list reeks of stupidity. The standard in public service is to not only avoid acting wrongly, but to also avoid the appearance of it.

    In my public service experience, executives sometimes do this as a “Screw Him” gesture, but it comes off looking unprofessional. This comes from executives on both political sides.

    The real question is this; Is he really still on the list, or is he using this issue to get attention because he was once on it then removed?

    Just because Griffin is on the left does not place him above reproach. He may be milking the cow, just like everyone else, even after the TSA corrects itself. The sooner we get past left and right wingers sending “Screw You” messages back and forth, the sooner we can see the truth.

    Imagine what a great liberal credential for Griffin to get his name out there by being ‘wronged’ by the right? Many reporters have built entire careers upon such alleged victimization.

    Like any civil court judge would ask in a lawsuit, I ask;

    What harm was done to the plaintiff?

  6. Michael LaBossiere said, on August 4, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    You are quite right: screwing people is a bipartisan matter that both Democrats and Republicans practice. I think Democrats take it more literally, though.

    The story claims that he is on the list and shows an airline employee (or rather what appears to be an airline employee) telling him he is on the list.

    The harm has mostly been some annoyance and lost time. However, he has gotten some fame and story material from it. So perhaps it was a win overall.

    I’m wondering when I’ll get to be on the list.

  7. Mike Rozos said, on August 5, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    Well, let’s see, you have a PhD, right?

    So all you really need to do now is grow a beard.

    It’s that easy!

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