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United States Security

Senator Blacklisted by No-Fly List 1396

Posted by michael
from the accidents-happen dept.
sig writes "Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) was turned down for a flight from Washington, D. C. to Boston because his name turned up on the TSA No-Fly list. He eventually got on a flight, but was again denied on his way back to D.C. It took 3 weeks of calls to Tom Ridge and the Department of Homeland Security for the ordeal to get straightened out. But what are ordinary citizens supposed to do if the Secretary of Homeland Security won't take their calls?" There's also a New York Times story.
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Senator Blacklisted by No-Fly List

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  • Our gov't at work (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AviLazar (741826) on Friday August 20, 2004 @07:57AM (#10021582) Journal
    Maybe they need to re-evaluate themselves and their standards...(DUH!!!!).
    • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:09AM (#10021733)
      Well, yes. After implementing any system, you review after a period of time, and correct mistakes/problems.

      Very, very few (if any) are the complex systems put into place with zero bugs. That doesn't automatically mean they shouldn't be tried in the first place. Maybe, maybe not. But that is an entirely different question.
      • Re:Our gov't at work (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jbash (784046) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:27AM (#10021946)
        Oh yeah, I'm sure it was a bug. "Kennedy" sounds kind of Middle Eastern, don't you think? Wonder how many other Democrats will run into this kind of "mistake."

        The current White House occupants are shameless. Immediately after 9-11, Prime Minister Cheney ordered Continuity of Government to go into effect. The program calls for the evacuation of government leaders from Washington and the activation of the underground hideaways that shelter bureaucrats trained to keep Uncle Sam in business. The problem was no Democrats were evacuated or kept in the loop. Must have been an oversight.
        • Re:Our gov't at work (Score:5, Interesting)

          by david.gilbert (605443) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:39AM (#10022077)
          "Kennedy" sounds kind of Middle Eastern, don't you think?

          What makes you think your name needs to sound "kind of Middle Eastern" to make it onto the "no-fly" list? Your predjudices, perhaps?

          • by jbash (784046) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:41AM (#10022102)
            What makes you think your name needs to sound "kind of Middle Eastern" to make it onto the "no-fly" list? Your predjudices, perhaps?

            Good point. Maybe we should ALL change our names to Bin Laden. We know they can ALWAYS get on a plane.
            • by vwjeff (709903) on Friday August 20, 2004 @01:00PM (#10025404)
              The Senator was blacklisted to save the airlines money. Free booze in First Class has to have limits.
      • by YouHaveSnail (202852) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:37AM (#10022057)
        Well, yes. After implementing any system, you review after a period of time, and correct mistakes/problems.

        Of course, but you typically do that before you put the system into production. If you can't run the implemented system in a test bed environment, then at the very least you put the system in place and instruct users not to rely on it, and you give them a quick way to report problems. Also, note that there's a big difference between mistakes made in the system and mistakes made by the system. The former may take a while to isolate and correct, but there should be a mechanism to fix the latter quickly.

        Very, very few (if any) are the complex systems put into place with zero bugs.

        That's no excuse. If you have to put a system in place without thorough testing, you think long and hard about the kinds of problems it can cause, and you make damn sure you've got a fast and effective means of dealing with those problems.
        • by ElForesto (763160) <elforesto@gmailMENCKEN.com minus author> on Friday August 20, 2004 @12:17PM (#10024848) Homepage

          If you can't run the implemented system in a test bed environment, then at the very least you put the system in place and instruct users not to rely on it, and you give them a quick way to report problems.

          Tell that to the dot-com I used to work for.

      • by gorbachev (512743) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:39AM (#10022081) Homepage
        There is no bug here. It's broken by design.
      • Re:Our gov't at work (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MooseByte (751829) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:44AM (#10022132)

        "Well, yes. After implementing any system, you review after a period of time, and correct mistakes/problems."

        Yes, and BEFORE implementing a system like an inherently error-prone No-Fly list, even some basic design review of error recovery should have been firmly in place, beyond "there's this guy you can call and something might be done, maybe, if you're a senior gov't figure." I'd loved to have been in on the design meeting where that was finalized.

        It took a senior senator 3 WEEKS to get off the list. Think you'd have ANY chance? That's broken by design. And given past abuses (Euro journalists denied entry to US due to their "mistaken" inclusion on The List) I have zero confidence in this not being used as a political tool. Tom DeLay's "missing plane w/ congressmen" false report to the FAA, for example.

        And that's only the painfully obvious list. What about the ones you're never allowed to see?

        Nearly every aspect of this homeland "security" as implemented appears to have come from some underperforming kindergarten class. "And colors! We'll have pretty colors for the national terrorism alert level!"

        Meanwhile actual terrorists, whose plans apparently are NOT drawn up by underperforming kindergartners, will be busy trying to get one of their own put onto the equally poorly thought-out "security express" list that allows previously cleared individuals minimal security review at airports.

        But that's just me talking, some guy who's never benefitted from a terrorist attack, unlike those now supposedly in charge of preventing them.

        • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Friday August 20, 2004 @09:01AM (#10022372)
          Oh, I agree. How his name got there, and why it took so long for a prominent figure to get off is pretty damn bad. You and I would stand little chance.

          Ok...here's a proposal. Every time we read about this stuff (checking ID's, No-Fly list, whatever) it's immediately bashed as unworkable, and an affront to our rights. And that may well be so.
          How about, instead of mindlessly bashing what they are trying, coming up with something better. Something that won't take decades to bring to fruition ("Don't be so mean to them and cause them to blow stuff up"). This is supposedly a smart group. Let's try to fix the process, instead of jumping up and down, screaming.
          • by MooseByte (751829) on Friday August 20, 2004 @09:16AM (#10022566)

            "Ok...here's a proposal. [ ... ] How about, instead of mindlessly bashing what they are trying, coming up with something better. Something that won't take decades to bring to fruition [ ... ] Let's try to fix the process, instead of jumping up and down, screaming."

            I fully agree. Another critical angle is to contact your representatives [house.gov] and be heard. Your phone call is actually more powerful than your vote in many ways. Your vote gets the person into/out of office, your phone calls/email/letters gives them direct feedback on specific issues.

            Followup ideas on How To Do It Better to follow shortly, but I've got to knock out a conference call first. Yeah, work. The nerve of them. ;-)

          • by The Conductor (758639) on Friday August 20, 2004 @09:41AM (#10022929)

            The answer is defense in depth. Screen for passengers for weapons, but realize that some will get through any realistic screening, so add layers that lengthen the odds. Investigate suspicious groups before they get to the airport. Put pressure on (or invade if you must) states that support these groups. Put on a bulletproof cockpit door to stop them if they do get on the plane; I would go further and give the cockpit an outside door, so it is inaccessible from the passenger cabin. Give the pilots (or, for that matter, properly qualified passengers) guns so they can fight back. Put remote control lockouts on the aircraft. Fit supertall buildings with anti-aircraft weapons (specially designed for short range so they don't get hijacked).

            Granted, some of these things are being done, but the mindset is still one of looking for the perfect threat detection system, rather than one of minimizing risk for some given cost. We must accept that, whatever we do short of abandoning civilian aviation entirely, there will be a finite risk of hijackings. Any security measure must be judged by risk reduction vs cost, and compared to other, possibly less costly, measures to reduce risk.

    • by zoefff (61970) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:26AM (#10021929)
      At least the security system is working VERY visible! I can imagine:

      'Sorry sir, but we can't let you through'
      'Do you know who I am? I AM senator Kennedy!'
      'Even if you were the King of Liechtenstein, we can't let you through'
      'I'll have YOU fired first thing in the morning!'
      'Please do, but could you step out of the line please, sir?'

      Or the old joke
      'Sorry sir, but we can't let you through'
      'Do you know who I am?'
      (Intercom)'Can somebody help this person? He doesn't know who he is...'
      • by jon787 (512497) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:59AM (#10022345) Homepage Journal
        Here is another variant:

        A high ranking Admiral drives up to the gate of a naval base. This base has a policy of 100% check of ID cards and there is a new Marine on guard duty at the gate.
        Marine: I need to see your ID.
        Admiral: I don't have time for this nonsense. (to the driver) Go ahead.
        Marine: Don't do that.
        Admiral to driver: You heard me, Drive on.
        Marine draws his sidearm and says: Sir, this is my first time on post. Do I shoot you or your driver?
  • Answer. (Score:5, Funny)

    by whiteranger99x (235024) on Friday August 20, 2004 @07:57AM (#10021583) Journal
    But what are ordinary citizens supposed to do if the Secretary of Homeland Security won't take their calls?

    Umm....get a DAMN good start driving?
    • Re:Answer. (Score:5, Funny)

      by groot (198923) * on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:02AM (#10021651) Homepage Journal

      Umm....get a DAMN good start driving?


      That won't work after the new 'Don't-Drive' rules take into effect on our nations hiways.

      Mr. Kennedy (if that is really your name) please step away from the vehicle...

      --laz
    • Re:Answer. (Score:5, Funny)

      by dekemoose (699264) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:06AM (#10021705)
      Do you really want Kennedy driving? Now that's a threat to the country!
  • Funny... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Phoenix-IT (801337) on Friday August 20, 2004 @07:57AM (#10021585)
    Is it me? Or does it seem that potential threats have and easier time getting into airports and on board planes than ordinary citizens do?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 20, 2004 @07:57AM (#10021589)
    Everybody knows Ted Kennedy is no threat unless you're driving in a car with him.....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 20, 2004 @07:57AM (#10021593)
    Could this have been some backroom shenanigans to harass and intimidate an outspoken member of the opposition party? Lord, no, such a thing would never be done by politicians these days...
  • The slippery slope (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pedestrian crossing (802349) on Friday August 20, 2004 @07:58AM (#10021595) Homepage Journal
    It goes to show that once you head down this road, it is abused, or at best, applied incompetently and inflexibly. Show me your papers, citizen!
    • by freak4u (696919) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:30AM (#10021973) Homepage Journal
      Found the quote I was looking for
      "When they took the 4th Amendment, I was quiet because I didn't deal drugs. When they took the 6th Amendment, I was quiet because I am innocent. When they took the 2nd Amendment, I was quiet because I don't own a gun. Now they have taken the 1st Amendment, and I can only be quiet." --Lyle Myhr
      • by ajs (35943) <ajs AT ajs DOT com> on Friday August 20, 2004 @09:38AM (#10022882) Homepage Journal
        Ah, another bastardization of the original. Here's an interesting comment from a page about the person that made the original "when they came for..." comment [liv-coll.ac.uk]:
        Everbody loves to quote Martin Niemöller's lines about moral failure in the face of the Holocaust: '
        First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I said nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat, so I did nothing. Then came the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist. And then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did little. Then when they came for me, there was no one left to stand up for me.'

        But interestingly, people use the quotation to imply different meanings - even altering it to suit their purpose. When Time magazine used the quotation, they moved the Jews to the first place and dropped both the communists and the social democrats. American Vice-President Al Gore likes the to quote the lines, but drops the trade unionists for good measure. Gore and Time also added Roman Catholics, who weren't on Niemöller's list at all. In the heavily Catholic city of Boston, Catholics were added to the quotation inscribed on its Holocaust memorial. The US Holocaust Museum drops the Communists but not the Social Democrats; other versions have added homosexuals.

  • by John Jorsett (171560) on Friday August 20, 2004 @07:59AM (#10021616)
    It's possible it wasn't that they thought he's a terrorist. Maybe they weighed him and decided they didn't have enough fuel.
  • by Rayonic (462789) on Friday August 20, 2004 @07:59AM (#10021618) Homepage Journal
    He was supposed to be on the No-Drive List.
    • For the non-US (Score:5, Informative)

      by Professeur Shadoko (230027) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:36AM (#10022050)
      I didn't get the joke, so I googled a bit:

      here [washingtonpost.com]

      On the evening of July 19, 1969, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts drove his Oldsmobile off a wooden bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, drowning his passenger, a young campaign worker named Mary Jo Kopechne. The senator left the scene of the accident, did not report it to the police for many hours, and according to some accounts considered concocting an alibi for himself in the interim.

      At the time, Kennedy managed to escape severe legal and political consequences for his actions thanks to his family's connections (which helped to contain the inquest and grand jury) and to a nationally televised "Checkers"-like speech broadcast a week after the accident. But virtually no journalist who has closely examined the evidence fully believes Kennedy's story, and almost 30 years later, the tragedy still trails the senator, with aggressive press investigations revived in five-year anniversary intervals.

      Probably more than any other single factor, Chappaquiddick - a frenzy without end - has ensured that Ted Kennedy would not follow his brother John to the White House.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:00AM (#10021623)
    Nixon used the IRS to pester his foes. Now we've (er, they've) got the TSA to play with. It's lovely to see the advances that government has made.
  • by kc0re (739168) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:00AM (#10021625) Journal
    Given the record of deaths in the Kennedy family, Tom Ridge was probably protecting Ted from himself.
  • by CptChipJew (301983) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .rellimleahcim.> on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:01AM (#10021639) Homepage Journal
    Kennedy used this as an opportunity to show how this system is sort of a lousy idea, and an even worse implementation.

    So to this, all I can say is that Ted should be modded up at least +3 Insightful
  • A Liberal Democrat Senator gets put on the No-Fly list by mistake _AND_ It takes 3 weeks to get removed?
    • by BlewScreen (159261) on Friday August 20, 2004 @09:07AM (#10022441)
      I don't think the fact that he was put on the list was politically motivated - but I am wondering why it took three weeks to make the news...

      Did he decide that he wouldn't tell anyone until the issue was resolved? Did the people in the airport not realize it was Ted? I'd have told everyone I know, and an airport usually has enought people in it that SOMEONE would have let a newspaper or TV station know... It happened FIVE times...

      Further, wouldn't this have made a more favorable impact for the D's if the news came out during the DNC? Maybe they wanted to wait until people forgot about the DNC and started thinking about the RNC...

      Or maybe it never really happened...

      </tinfoil>

      -bs
  • by hal2814 (725639) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:08AM (#10021719)
    I was watching that show Airline that follows around SW Airlines employees and they wouldn't let a couple fly becasue they had too much to drink. Could that be the REAL reason Kennedy wasn't allowed to fly?
  • by mariox19 (632969) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:18AM (#10021849)

    Obviously the security people at airports are trained and no doubt encouraged by a litany of inflexible rules and consequences for those that don't follow them to the letter to simply "go by the book." What we wind up with is the mindless application of bureaucratic procedures by security drones. You couldn't convince me that we are all safer because of this.

    It's not that politicians should receive special treatment; but it is ridiculous that one of the most recognizable men in American politics gets flagged by the computer and no one can do anything about it because no one dare stick his neck out for fear of being "flagged" for termination from his job.

    On second thought though, with all the bullshit the average person has to put up with in every aspect of life that involves dealing with government agencies and their rules -- at least some of which I'm sure Senator Kennedy is responsible for -- I say hooray for inconveniencing the senator! Let's have more of this!

  • T. Kennedy (Score:5, Informative)

    by EnglishTim (9662) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:18AM (#10021853)
    Riiiight. So basically anybody called 'T Kennedy' isn't allowed to fly.

    According to the 1990 census information [census.gov], 0.067% of Americans have the surname 'Kennedy' - given a rough poulation of 300million, that makes around 200,000 American Kennedys.

    Now, also from the above information, 4.25% of the male population and 3.35% of the female population have names beginning with T.

    This means that just from that single name on the no-fly list, roughly 7600 Americans could be excluded from flying.

    It's utter, utter madness.
  • Wrong again! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sherpajohn (113531) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:23AM (#10021898) Homepage
    Doh! And here I thought I would get to read a juicy story about some aging senator who likes to get rip-roaring drunk on flights and pinch the stewerdesses' rears. Ends up being yet another story about how American "terrorist" paranoia knows no bounds.

    On a somewhat related note, it took my girlfriend and I about 2 hours to cross into the States in late June. we were "pulled" aside - told to turn off our cell phones, remove all valuables from her car (but no camera's or recorders please!) and go into a building while they searched her car. After sitting there about an hour, a person who I assumed was the supervisor came over to us and said "Why are YOU here?" (being the only caucasian couple in "waiting"). We showed him the slip of paper they had given us - he wrinkled his nose, peered at us, went "hmmmmm" and handed the slip to a INS agent and went on his way. We were then very rudely "interviewed" by said agent. Even though my girlfriend drives a very nice 2000 model Grand Am - they wanted to know how much money we had on us - when I told them none, as we intended to use americna funds we would get from bank machines, they demanded to know how much money we had on our credit cards and in our bank accounts! Were they stupid enough to think we would leave the relative freedom of Canada to sneak into the States? Give me a break. I am happy to say that after that, our trip down to St. Louis and back was wonderful.

    Oddly enough coming home, we got waved through Canadian Customs in about 30 seconds.
    • Re:Wrong again! (Score:4, Informative)

      by genixia (220387) on Friday August 20, 2004 @12:08PM (#10024756)
      - they wanted to know how much money we had on us - when I told them none, as we intended to use americna funds we would get from bank machines, they demanded to know how much money we had on our credit cards and in our bank accounts!


      The 2nd question was because of your 'wrong' answer to the first. INS (or whatever they call themselves now) are required to ensure that you have enough funds to support your visit so that you won't resort to asking for handouts or robbery. The bizarre thing is that the law that codified this requirement was written a long time ago and the amount of cash required wasn't index linked, so it wouldn't cover a meal in a decent restaurant today. I can't remember exactly what the figure is, but it's something like $20.

      When I was dating my now wife and make frequent trips into the USA without a green card, I used to keep $40 in my wallet just to avoid that hassle even though I, like you, used ATMs to support my stay.
  • Vote. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kryzx (178628) * on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:23AM (#10021902) Homepage Journal
    "But what are ordinary citizens supposed to do if the Secretary of Homeland Security won't take their calls?"

    Vote.

  • by gr8_phk (621180) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:25AM (#10021920)
    They didn't let him on the plane because he was a suspected terrorist, but there's no indication that they tried to detain or arrest him either. WTF?
  • by XavierItzmann (687234) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:27AM (#10021940)
    What happens today to people who scream on airplanes, run down the aisle, and assault other passengers with pillows, like Kennedy has done?
    Ted could drink about as much as any man and still appear relatively sober. That was the most dangerous of gifts. But something was different now, and this trip brought him back to thoughts of death and dying. "They're going to shoot my ass off the way they shot Bobby's," he said as the reporters listened and took their private notes. Wanting only to pop a few more drinks, he did not eat at the airport in Fairbanks on the way home. He got on the plane and asked the flight attendant for a drink, and then another. He swaggered up and down the aisle, bouncing a pillow on the head of one of his aides, shouting for him to wake up, and then weaving along shouting, "Eskimo power! Eskimo power!" The journalists listened and noted Ted's sad state, but none of them wrote about it in their publications when they got home.

    Sons Of Camelot: The Fate Of An American Dynasty, by Laurence Leamer

    Chanting political slogans and assaulting passengers? Okay, it was 1972, but we pay TSA to stay vigilant against anyone with a history of unstable political activity, don't we?
    http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/00 2283.php [captainsquartersblog.com]

  • NOT TURNED DOWN (Score:5, Informative)

    by magarity (164372) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:37AM (#10022062)
    It's bad enough when comment posters don't RTFA, but the submitter?!?!

    From the article:
    A Kennedy aide said the senator nearly missed a couple of flights because of the delays

    This is NOT "turned down for a flight". Sheesh!
  • My Story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gone.fishing (213219) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:43AM (#10022131) Journal
    I fly quite a bit for work and know that for a time I made some sort of list somewhere. Apparently after a while, if you pass enough of their tests you are removed from the list.

    The e-ticket machines would not issue me tickets, telling me that I had to get my tickets at the counter. I was no longer asked if I wanted to upgrade to first class for special price... The boarding agents stuck little colored dots with initials on them on my boarding passes - apparently as cues to people down-stream. It got frustrating that everywhere I went I and my luggage were singled out for special attention. Up to the point where my luggage would not be accepted curbside, My luggage and I would be taken into a little room and searched. In one case, even sealed packages were opened. As I boarded the airplane, I was always one of the passengers called for a random search.

    Durring one of these searches, I mentioned to the agent that I must have made someone's list somewhere. He shook his head up and down as he said "I can't say that sir!" I had my answer and just resigned myself to being watched.

    Then one day, as suddenly as it started, it stopped. My guess is that I satisfied the intellegence built into the database that I was not a threat and it removed me from the list.

    I do not know what I did to make their list nor do I really know what I did to get off of their list. I can tell you it is an unpleasant experience being there.

    As far as I know, I have never done anything anywhere that would cause someone to think of me as a potential terrorist.
  • by danuary (748394) on Friday August 20, 2004 @08:44AM (#10022146)
    For the safety of everyone else, they meant to put him on the no DRIVE list. It was an honest mistake.
  • by justins (80659) on Friday August 20, 2004 @09:00AM (#10022361) Homepage Journal
    included a funny little exchange between a woman whose daughter was being prevented from boarding planes and Asa Hutchinson, TSA honcho (and, interestingly, one of the House GOP engineers of the Clinton impeachment). The gist of the story being that after repeated attempts to get her daugher off "the list," she was still on the list. Hutchinson suggested she talk to the TSA ombudsman, which she had evidently already done.

    There were a few other interesting, chilling tidbits regarding homeland security. Fun stuff:
    http://www.npr.org/features/feature.php?wf Id=38597 56
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday August 20, 2004 @09:26AM (#10022704) Homepage
    1. Andy Anthrax uses the name Bobby Bomber as an alias and this name somehow makes it onto the No Fly List.
    2. Andy turns up at the airport and claims to be Bobby.
    3. The girl at the checkin desk says "I'm sorry, Mr Bomber, your name is on the secret no-fly list. You can wait and see a supervisor, or you can go home and choose another alias next time.".

    The hell? All that happens is that Andy Anthrax finds out that he's on the list? So the next time he books a ticket, it will be as Barry Boxcutter.

    Has anyone in the Department of Homeland 'Security' considered that this scheme is only going to stop innocent people who don't happen to have multiple identities? If we had any confidence in this list, then Senator Kennedy should have found armed agents waiting to take him down the moment he entered the airport. That this didn't happen just highlights that the whole no-fly list is a bad joke that's got way out of hand.

    We need real security, not window dressing. And no, answering "National Security" in response to any criticism of the policy is not a substitute.

  • a good thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wardk (3037) on Friday August 20, 2004 @11:11AM (#10024070) Journal
    it's a very good thing this is happening to those in power, especially someone as powerful as Senator Kennedy.

    Only when idiot laws begin to affect those in power will something usually be done to correct it.

    Maybe the Honorable Senator and John Gilmore can get together and work to getting TSA to be an organization that doesn't resemble authority from a Charlie Chaplin movie.
  • by geekotourist (80163) on Friday August 20, 2004 @02:04PM (#10026153) Journal
    From This March 2003 Slashdot article [slashdot.org]: the government has no responsibility or requirement (and thus no incentive) to have correct data or to be corrected. Ted Kennedy gets a rare exception because he's not only famous but powerful. You and I have no chance. Just ask the 5,500 David Nelsons [slashdot.org].

    And whatever they claim otherwise, they're still getting data from credit reports and the like. So say you're one of the hundreds of thousands of identity theft victims. With ID theft you have rights, and the credit reporting agencies responsibilities, to attempt to fix bad data. Takes 200 hours of your time and never, ever really finishes, but all you lose is your potential new job and potential new car loan.

    But in the meantime the bad data gets into the gov't files: now you never can fix it. And your taint creeps out to touch all your associates (like how the casino software catches ex-roommates of ex-roommates of card counters). Now not only do you not get hired after the NCIC screen in the background check, but your buddies and grandparents all get extra airport searches (they should add a nurse they way they do some of those searches... add in a breast or testicular cancer lump screen while you're there). And of course as 1 in 2500 of us is a terrorist [slashdot.org] any close check of you will find those suspicious degrees of separation in your Orkut links. Hi Mr.Tuttle, your new name is Toast.

    From my favorite precient and well-written essay on privacy losses [privcom.gc.ca]:

    "But there also will be tangible, specific harm.

    The more information government compiles about us, the more of it will be wrong. That's simply a fact of life...

    "If information that is actually about someone else is wrongly applied to us, if wrong facts make it appear that we've done things we haven't, if perfectly innocent behavior is misinterpreted as suspicious because authorities don't know our reasons or our circumstances, we will be at risk of finding ourselves in trouble in a society where everyone is regarded as a suspect. By the time we clear our names and establish our innocence, we may have suffered irreparable financial or social harm.

    "Worse yet, we may never know what negative assumptions or judgments have been made about us in state files... Decisions detrimental to us may be made on the basis of wrong facts, incomplete or out-of-context information or incorrect assumptions, without our ever having the chance to find out about it, let alone to set the record straight.

    " That possibility alone will, over time, make us increasingly think twice about what we do, where we go, with whom we associate, because we will learn to be concerned about how it might look to the ubiquitous watchers of the state..."

    "The bottom line is this: If we have to live our lives weighing every action, every communication, every human contact, wondering what agents of the state might find out about it, analyze it, judge it, possibly misconstrue it, and somehow use it to our detriment, we are not truly free. That sort of life is characteristic of totalitarian countries, not a free and open society..."

    If these errors were merely harmful to the innocent, that would simply be horribly injust and an affront to the ideals of the US. But these errors are also stupidly harmful to safety. From Schneier [sfgate.com] (via my D.Nelson post)... "almost everyone who fits the profile will turn out to be a false alarm. This not only wastes investigative resources that might be better spent elsewhere, but it causes grave harm to those innocents who fit the profile..."

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

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