8-year-old on US ‘terrorist’ list

This video from the USA says about itself:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A House representative said Thursday she is requesting an investigation after learning a CNN reporter was put on the federal no-fly list shortly after his investigation of the Transportation Security Administration.

From the New York Times in the USA:

Meet Mikey, 8: U.S. Has Him on Watch List


Published: January 13, 2010

The Transportation Security Administration, under scrutiny after last month’s bombing attempt, has on its Web site a “mythbuster” that tries to reassure the public.

Myth: The No-Fly list includes an 8-year-old boy.

Buster: No 8-year-old is on a T.S.A. watch list.

“Meet Mikey Hicks,” said Najlah Feanny Hicks, introducing her 8-year-old son, a New Jersey Cub Scout and frequent traveler who has seldom boarded a plane without a hassle because he shares the name of a suspicious person. “It’s not a myth.”

Michael Winston Hicks’s mother initially sensed trouble when he was a baby and she could not get a seat for him on their flight to Florida at an airport kiosk; airline officials explained that his name “was on the list,” she recalled.

The first time he was patted down, at Newark Liberty International Airport, Mikey was 2. He cried.

After years of long delays and waits for supervisors at every airport ticket counter, this year’s vacation to the Bahamas badly shook up the family. Mikey was frisked on the way there, then more aggressively on the way home.

“Up your arms, down your arms, up your crotch — someone is patting your 8-year-old down like he’s a criminal,” Mrs. Hicks recounted. “A terrorist can blow his underwear up and they don’t catch him. But my 8-year-old can’t walk through security without being frisked.”

It is true that Mikey is not on the federal government’s “no-fly” list, which includes about 2,500 people, less than 10 percent of them from the United States. But his name appears to be among some 13,500 on the larger “selectee” list, which sets off a high level of security screening.

At some point, someone named Michael Hicks made the Department of Homeland Security suspicious, and little Mikey is still paying the price. (His father, also named Michael Hicks, was stopped for the first time on the Bahamas trip.)

Both lists are maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center, which includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They are given to the Transportation Security Administration, which in turn sends them to the airlines.

A spokesman for the T.S.A., James Fotenos, said that as a rule, “there are no children on the no-fly or selectee lists,” but would not comment on Mikey’s situation specifically.

For every person on the lists, hundreds of others may get caught up simply because they share the same name; a quick scan through a national phone directory unearthed 1,600 Michael Hickses. Over the past three years, 81,793 frustrated travelers have formally asked that they be struck from the watch list through the Department of Homeland Security; more than 25,000 of their cases are still pending. Others have taken more drastic measures.

Mario Labbé, a frequent-flying Canadian record-company executive, started having problems at airports shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, with lengthy delays at checkpoints and mysterious questions about Japan. By 2005, he stopped flying to the United States from Canada, instead meeting American clients in France. Then a forced rerouting to Miami in 2008 led to six hours of questions.

“What’s the name of your mother? Your father? When were you last in Japan?” Mr. Labbé recalled being asked. “Always the same questions in different order. And sometimes, it’s quite aggressive, not funny at all.”

Fed up, in the summer of 2008, he changed his name to François Mario Labbé. The problem vanished.

Several Web sites, including the T.S.A.’s own blog, are rife with tales of misidentification and strategies for solving them. Some travelers purposely misspell their own names when buying tickets, apparently enough to fool the system. Even the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy once found himself on a list.

“We can’t just throw a bunch of names on these lists and call it security,” said Representative William J. Pascrell Jr., a New Jersey Democrat. “If we can’t get an 8-year-old off the list, the whole list becomes suspect.”

Mr. Fotenos, the T.S.A. spokesman, promised improvements in a few months, as the agency’s Secure Flight Program takes full effect. Under the new system, airlines will collect every passenger’s birth date and gender, along with their names. The T.S.A. will cross-check all that with the watch lists. Previously, the airlines cross-checked the lists themselves, using only the names.

Certainly, Mikey’s date of birth, less than a month before 9/11, should prevent him from being mistaken as a terrorist.

A third grader at a parochial school in Clifton, N.J., Mikey recites the drill like the world-weary traveler he is. Leave early for the airport, always with his passport. Try to get a boarding pass at the counter. This will send up a flag. The ticket agent, peering down at tiny bespectacled Mikey, will apologize or roll her eyes, and call for a supervisor. The supervisor, after a phone call — or, more likely, a series of phone calls — will ultimately finagle him onto the plane. But the Hickses are typically the last to select seats and the last to board, which means they sometimes can’t sit together.

A teenage airplane passenger using a Jewish prayer object caused a misunderstanding that led the captain to divert a Kentucky-bound plane to Philadelphia and prompted a visit from a bomb squad: here.

A hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security revealed that US intelligence agencies stopped the State Department from revoking the US visa of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, allowing him to board Northwest Airlines Flight 253 to Detroit: here.

8 thoughts on “8-year-old on US ‘terrorist’ list

  1. San Diego Man On No-Fly List Returns Home

    Ali Ahmed Stranded In Bahrain For Nearly 2 Weeks After Being Denied Entry To Kenya

    POSTED: 8:16 pm PDT July 9, 2012
    UPDATED: 8:36 pm PDT July 9, 2012

    SAN DIEGO — A local college student whose name ended up on the no-fly list returned home to San Diego on Monday.

    Ali Ahmed arrived at Lindbergh Field on Monday afternoon after a 20-hour ordeal, including a missed flight and lost luggage.

    “I’m very happy to be home and with my family,” he told 10News. “I hope my life goes back to normal.”

    He said that he hopes no Americans have to go through what he went through because “it’s nothing any citizen needs to go through.”

    Ahmed, who is a U.S. citizen, found out the hard way that he was on the no-fly list.

    “This issue is bigger than just this case,” said Hanif Mohebi, the executive director of the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.

    Mohebi told 10News that Ahmed came to the United States as a small child, a refugee from Somalia who escaped with his grandmother.

    On May 23, Ahmed flew from San Diego to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for a pilgrimage. From there, he flew to Bahrain, en route to Nairobi, Kenya where he was to see his father and get married. That is when the trouble started.

    10News spoke with Ahmed last week.

    “Actually, I have no idea. Nobody told me anything,” he told 10News from Bahrain over the phone. “Every time I ask, they say, ‘I don’t know. I have to contact the government.'”

    Ahmed was denied entry to Kenya and sent back to Bahrain, where he had been for nearly two weeks, staying with strangers he had never met before.

    “This is clear racial profiling,” said Mohebi. “It’s a religious profiling. It’s one of those lists that if you look like a specific individual from specific countries… well then you are going to end up on that list.”

    Ahmed and CAIR worked with the embassy until he was finally cleared to come home on a flight that left Bahrain on Sunday. But on Monday in Washington D.C., there was another setback.

    “Customs wanted to ask him a few questions, so he got delayed,” said Mohebi. “He missed his flight, so he had to reschedule.”

    Ahmed returned to San Diego by himself. His new bride was not able to make the trip.



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