web Musings of The Global Traveller

Friday, January 15, 2010

TSA disowns problem of children prevented from flying

Today's TSA blog post is on the topic of recent media attention (eg NY Times) - children getting extra security attention because they match a name on the watchlist.

The TSA post says correctly the children are not on the watchlist but are caught due to having similar names, but then goes on to say SecureFlight will solve all once it is fully in place. (SecureFlight it has been partially rolled out.)

This completely misses the point. As I posted back in mid 2008, the watchlist catches many innocent people - with several million false matches. Since then the lists have gotten bigger - eg this Congressional Report in the wake of the Dec 25 underpants bomb attempt cites 540,000 names, apparently as at August 2008 (with a subset on the no fly list). A list with half a million names equates to tens of millions of false matches. Needless to say, this crude method of having a huge trawl-net of names to watch out for is completely ineffective as a means of security.

By devoting more resources to SecureFlight in an attempt to reduce the impact of false positive matches, TSA is in my view worsening security. The money could be much better spent on other true security initiatives. Indeed culling the watchlist would save a fortune too.

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