The last time the TrackSuit family was at the airport, we were in line behind a man who was talking to one of the airline agents. We couldn’t help but overhear the conversation that ensued between the agent and this large lumberjack type fellow:
Creepy Lumberjack: How did I get on a watchlist?
Agent: Sir, just go to TSA.gov and you will find that information there.
CL: [grumbling] I don’t understand why I’m on a watchlist.
Agent: Sir, please just go to the website, it will answer all your questions. Now step back in line.
Step back in line?? Wait a second here! This guy is getting back in line with me and my family, and he might actually be on our flight? And it really didn’t help that he was freakishly large (I’m saying that and I’m 6′ 4″, so you can imagine how big this guy was).
So there he was, right in front of us, a big scruffy survivalist type who the FFA had pegged as a possible terrorist. It made me wonder how one does end up on this watchlist. Can you end up there simply by being neighbors with Timothy McVeigh? (this guy obviously was) So I went to TSA.gov and found this in their FAQ’s:
Q: I have been told that I am on a terrorist watchlist by an airline employee and I frequently have difficulty when I fly. Does this mean I am in the TSDB [Terrorist Screening Database]?
A: No; however, an individual may be a “misidentified person.” A misidentified person is someone who is experiencing a delay during screening because they have a similar name to a person in the TSDB. Misidentified persons are sometimes delayed while the government works to distinguish them from the terrorist in the TSDB. Because these delays are frustrating and inconvenient, there are several initiatives in progress to help streamline the clearance process for misidentified persons. If an individual believes he/she is having a misidentification problem, he/she should contact the screening agency’s redress office for assistance.
After our trip I ran across an article about Sergio Viera de Mello, the UN envoy who the recent book by Samantha Power Chasing the Flame is about. He is known for the saying, “Fear is a bad adviser” and the point of the book (and his legacy) is that if we, as a society, are terrifying ourselves — then we are the true terrorists. And the inner terrorist is one that no government or military can rid us of because we will always find more things to be afraid of. From the article:
“Neutralizing terrorism would entail freeing ourselves from fear at home, while also launching a grand international initiative to make citizens abroad safe in their persons and property.”
So when we let our fears get the best of us, or begin to see the world as a more dangerous place than it really is, we are just terrifying ourselves. Reality is determined by our beliefs. Our beliefs are the lens through which we view our world and if we can change our beliefs we will quickly notice that the world around us will change in kind.
So my idea is to make a new database of these unwitting terrorists. Anytime I hear someone here in Austin, where I live, getting paranoid that their 3 story office building might be the target of the next terrorist attack, I’m going to put them on notice!
Me: “Excuse me sir, I understand that you’re a security guard at Barton Creek Mall who explains all rules and regulations beginning with the phrase ‘well, since 9/11…'”.
Security Guard: “Yes, that’s correct.”
Me: “Sir, you’ve just landed yourself on the TSDB list, and the DB does NOT stand for database! For more information please go to uraDB.gov. That will be all.”
Come join the conversation on Blogging on Company Time