The ACLU has, for years, been screaming at the top of our lungs about government watch lists. For. Years. It turns out, though, one of the most powerful voices not heard before today is that of Mikey Hicks, an 8-year-old boy who has been on the "selectee" list — a larger list than the "no-fly" list — since, well, birth.
Today's New York Times has a story on Hicks' family and their travel tribulations that began, in all seriousness, when Mikey was an infant. When he was 2 years old, the kid was patted down at airport security. He's now, by all accounts, an unassuming bespectacled Boy Scout who has been stopped every time he flies with his family. For the record, I, for one, would be happy to fly with Mikey. No problem.
This isn't the first time we've heard of children being on watch lists and here's the underlying point of highlighting Mikey's plight: watch lists are ineffective, cumbersome and have the opposite effect of their intention — we are less safe. We're allowing our valuable security resources to be squandered on ridiculous tactics when we have TSA agents patting down 2-year-olds instead of law enforcement tracking down actual leads.
Our watch lists are bloated and unmanageable. We keep innocent people from flying while our resources are directed away from real terrorist threats. If watch lists are truly going to be useful they must target those who pose a genuine flight safely.
Unfortunately, the government doesn't agree. Recently, while talking about the attempted Christmas Day bombing, President Obama claimed that our watch list system was "not broken." I think Mikey Hicks and his parents may have a different opinion.
The story ends with a priceless quote from Hicks' mother:
"I understand the need for security," she added. "But this is ridiculous. It's quite clear that he is 8 years old, and while he may have terroristic tendencies at home, he does not have those on a plane."
Well, maybe there's an upside to all of this. Do the Boy Scouts give out 'endured government harassment' badges?'