Saturday, January 28, 2006

Mistaken Identity

I just read an article about a small commuter airline pilot who lost his job because he had the same name as someone on the TSA's no-fly list. It's clearly a case of mistaken identity, as the last paragraph points out that the pilot who lost his job is a white Irish immigrant, while the person on the no-fly list that bears his same name, is hispanic.

As an amateur pilot myself, I can't begin to tell you how frustrating this is to hear. You work very hard for your aviation certifications, in both time and money. In doing so, you gain a profound respect for the decades of work that went in to creating the global aviation system. Then to see it all go away because of the actions of someone who bears the same name is indescribable.

I understand that the no-fly list has a good and noble purpose. I support that purpose whole heartedly. It's just that we are taught, from a very young age, that we are responsible for our own actions. We are also taught that everyone else is responsible for their own actions. For those who don't take their responsibilities seriously, they get removed from areas of society through mechanisms like the no-fly list, jail, probation or good 'ole fashioned "time-outs". It's considered, and rightly so, a profound miscarriage of justice when someone is forced to pay for the crimes of someone else.

I believe that eventually enough people will be wrongly punished by the TSA's misguided efforts, that it will create a critical mass of dissent. The only way to relieve the growing pressure is to install logical checks and balances on their power. Anyone on the no-fly list, should have the right to a speedy appeal to an impartial panel/jury/judge empowered with the ability to remove them (or not) from the no-fly list. Until that happens, pressure is going to continuously build up.

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