Tuesday, June 19, 2007

No-fly list ripe for problems

You can't help but read the reporting on this thing and shake your head. The procedure is littered with problems not to mention the fact that our government could be taking actual constructive steps to make flying more safe. Like improving technology in airports to examine baggage and cargo and prioritizing such measures over p.r. exercises undertaken to align ourselves with the most obtuse administration ever to wield power in Washington. How about that? Think a no-fly list is going to catch any terrorists in its net? Think we'll be safer for it? It's likely to produce more horror stories than anything.

So let's consider the mechanics of it in this report:
The list applies to all flights, both domestic and international, and was created by an advisory group to the Transport Minister composed of CSIS agents and the RCMP.
Is that the "broken" RCMP that's in on this? What kind of oversight exists on this advisory group's exercise of power to ensure it's not being abused and that names placed on the list are not done so for improper purposes? Is there any? Who appointed the advisory group and who's in it? Within any organization there are factions with known beliefs on issues...I wonder about the choices of individuals for such groups, particularly when there's no public disclosure of such matters.

Next:
Those named on the list are believed to pose an immediate threat to air security. They must also have been involved, or have been suspected of involvement, in a terrorist group, or they must have committed a serious and life-threatening crime against Canadian aviation.
Um, question for you...why aren't these people being arrested instead of being left to be halted by the airlines? Please explain that one to me like I'm a 10 year old.

Next up, the delightful airport experience:
Airlines are not permitted to print boarding passes for anyone with a name that matches someone on the list until that passenger proves he or she is not the person in question.

That means all passengers must arrive at the airport with one piece of government-issued photo identification, such as a driver's licence or a passport, that gives their name, sex and date of birth – or two pieces of government-issued identification, such as a birth certificate, that shows their name, sex and date of birth.
I can just imagine the stories that will emanate from individuals having to prove they are NOT the person named on the list to these airline personnel. Are they receiving any security training on such matters? Doubt it. Sounds like the airlines are shunting people off to Transport Canada to appeal. If your name's on that list - and we have no way of knowing who's on it, why they were placed there, etc. - and you've got ID confirming your name...what's going to happen? Kafkaesque arguments with airline and Transport Canada officials over your identity and likely a preponderance of decisions denying individuals the ability to fly.

This list is ripe for abuse in terms of who gets placed on it and why, discretion in the hands of airline officials over individuals mobility rights, issues that haven't even arisen yet.

(h/t to James Laxer's blog on this issue, great post.)