back to article No-fly list grounds US Air Marshals

One aspect of the American response to air safety in the year after the September 11 attacks that generated relatively little controversy was welcome expansion of the Federal Air Marshal program - other than some concerns about what kind of weapons could be used safely within a pressurized cabin, really, who could complain about …


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  1. dervheid

    As has already been posted elsewhere...

    terrorists 1; sanity 0

    Why doesn't the US just shut it's borders, both pysical and virtual, (after recalling all its troops) and let the rest of us get on with our lives without them. They're no longer the economic powerhouse of the world (that'd be China.) and given a short time I'm sure we could learn to live without their interference.

    Flame away!

  2. bncnxxxn
    Thumb Down

    Like a government-issued curse

    I can't stop being amazed and outraged at the fascist absurdity that has spread in the USA...

    Crossing the border seems to have become a nightmarish experience for many... Laptop seizures, privacy violations and persistent harassment due to names being similar to the one alleged criminals...

    I'm not putting a foot on that damned country if I can help it.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    God bless America....

    "...suspect is black, 6ft 2", called Chris Follen.."

    "this guy is white, 5ft 8", called Chris Allen. It's gotta be him."

    "Get your hands on the wheel. GET YOUR HANDS ON THE FUCKING WHEEL!"

    "Suspect", being shit scared, makes a sudden move.


    "Perp has been neutralieised, repeat Perp has been neutralieised. Ooooooooweeeeeee Hot damn, God bless America."

  4. Steve Evans
    Black Helicopters

    Isn't it amazing...

    ...that in this day and age, they are still matching people on name only.

    Given that it isn't hard to get a fake ID, and therefore a passport, matching on someone's name is pointless to put it mildly. Come to think of it, changing your name by legal methods would probably fox them completely anyway.

    Result, the list is pointless.

    Needless to say, as I possess a pretty common name, I don't intend on going anywhere near the US of A.

  5. ChessGeek

    Not Surprising

    Imagine your average non-computer-savvy person and then imagine this same "computer idiot" with a uniform and a gun and a whiff of authority.

    Are you still surprised that this kind of thing happens over and over? If so, think harder.

  6. M

    Just how stupid have they...

    ..reduced themselves down to?

    Recently I visit China, and was surprise that their attitude to sercuity is as equalivent to UK.

    And there is no phucking way I will visit U S A!

  7. Anonymous Coward


    Go check your GDP/GNP facts ... wanker

    USA: GDP (purchasing power parity): $13.86 trillion (2007 est.)

    China:GDP (purchasing power parity): $7.043 trillion (2007 est.)

    Japan: GDP (purchasing power parity): $4.417 trillion (2007 est.)

    UK GDP (purchasing power parity): $2.147 trillion (2007 est.)

    France: GDP (purchasing power parity): $2.067 trillion (2007 est

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've said it before and I'll say it again...

    The War on Terror is over. America and Britain lost.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Purchasing power parity

    is ony relevant on domestic matters. For international matters just use straight exchange rates and suddenly it's not looking so good for the US.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    John Smith

    I wonder what will happen to all the John Smith's out there when just one of them commits a major crime, meh.

    If you want to go on holiday to the US.A without all these problems, just go to Canada .:p

  11. Philip Alexander

    I'm still trying to figure out....

    Why US security checks a passengers shoes at the END of 3000 mile 8 hour journey - after immigration and customs!

    I don't think there is a more pointless exercise

  12. Pascal Monett Silver badge


    Your figures demonstrate that China is getting there. I think that, in the next 20 years, it will be first in line.

    The US, what with $120 billion of war debt, will be hard-pressed to keep up.

    And it's not anonymous cowards who fling useless insults with ease that will do anything about it.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Just how stupid do they think terrorists, crims and pinko libertarians are...

    ...if they think they travel under their own name / on their own passport / undiguised?

    The other classic example was Cat Stevens - aka Yusuf Islam, identified by said infallible system to be a sprightly, early-30s terrorist (whose name, incidentally, was "Youssef Islam") rather than an ageing hippy folk singer. Of course, he was en route to meet with Dolly Parton, whose weapons of mass destruction are well known to all.

    More to the point: why - as a condition of the Visa Waiver Programme - are visitors now required to indemnify Border Patrol and the DuHS against any and all loss or injury?

    Is leaden-handed idiocy to be defended, protected, actively encouraged?

    Paris: 'cos guys in uniform are hot.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    The Land Of the Free

    Or not....

    Just trying to decide which one is going to be the first to become a dictatorship, the UK or the US....

  15. Mark

    Re: AC

    Well, since the REASON why china produces all your goods is because it's cheaper to produce there by such a large margin that even with oil at it's current historically high price is cheaper to transport half way around the world, don't you think that MAYBE that's the reason why in dollar amount that's why China is lower down?

    And please, add up all the EU partners. Compare with US. And use dollar amounts compared to the 2008 value of the dollar (which now has the Canuks saying "so what's that in real money?").

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Don't get too smug

    Brits shouldn't get too smug with their Yank bashing. I've spoken to several people lately who won't be revisiting Britain anytime soon. They found all the cameras and treatment at the border too oppressive.

  17. James O'Brien
    Thumb Down

    Hell the TSA isnt the only place that only uses names

    I went in front of a town judge for a speeding ticket (45 in a 30) here in the states. Had my lawyer with me and when I went in front of the judge he tells me that I am charged with Breaking and Entering 2nd, Assault 2nd, Resisting Arrest, and Grand Theft. Needless to say my jaw was on the floor lawyer asked me "What did you do?" I ended up asking him the same thing in response. Took them a good 30 minutes to figure out I wasn't the James O'Brien they were looking for. Yes I got an apology but did I get anything other then that for damn near wetting myself? No.

    Needless to say about 2 years later (mind you I have driven in about a year and a half after nailing a deer on the highway with a brand new car totaling it out with less then 3k on the odo) I get a call from my lawyer saying there was a bench warrant out for my arrest for a DWI. Informed my lawyer I hadn't driven and to make damn sure it was me they were looking for. Turns out it was the same guy as before.

    Now heres the kicker, the guy was over 50 and im in my mid 20's.....


    /still looking for a sponsor to somewhere else. Anyone? Anywhere?


  18. Robert Hill

    @Pascal Monett


    You understate the US debt considerably. The war debt alone is much higher than the figure you quote - even more disturbing is the total government deficit, which is over 9.3 TRILLION dollars.

    7 trillion of that debt was incurred under Reagan and both Bushes in the relatively near past.

    I suggest as something to keep as a handy link...

  19. John

    Good thing...

    ...that they've figured out how to let their own employees through. Damn glad they aren't going to relax restrictions for anyone else matching one of a million plus names.

    Solution: Use a random generator to name your children. "Yes, my name is wKs0ek3 amP2Lsnqm."

  20. John

    "Similiar" name...

    ...the Canadian couple were stopped because "Chris Allen" was similiar... I wonder if it was "Chris" or "Allen"? It's also deploreable that we should treat celebrities like that, what with "Karen Allen" being in the Indian Jones movies!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Similar names, bah

    My namesake totally pwned the karate kid!

  22. RTFM
    Black Helicopters

    Security Theater

    At work we have started calling airport security "Security Theater" which is what it truly is since it definitely isn't real security.

  23. Richard

    So if you are tooled up for a small war and want to fly

    ...pretend to be an air marshal.

  24. John A Blackley

    Thank you

    To all of the above who promised to not set foot in the United States "anytime soon", thank you. And could you please change that "anytime soon" to "ever"? We have enough lazy, ill-informed and opinionated people here already.

    Before casting aspersions on the United States' border security and its problems, please examine your own. If you're in the UK, please ask someone (as I'm assuming you're too lazy to read) about fingerprinting you as you're leaving your own country. Ask someone about the searches you have to go through to get on a plane to leave your own country. And then ask someone, "With all of this security on leaving my own country, how come we can't stop foreign criminals from entering the country - seemingly as they please?"

  25. Kanhef

    re: Just how stupid...

    At first I read that as "terrorists, crims and pinko librarians..."

  26. Treacle

    Worrying, at best

    Being a citizen of these so-called "United" States, such "security" developments are worrying at best. Rationally we can poke numerous holes in these blatantly ineffectual practices of the TSA/Customs/Feds/etc.

    But functionally it would appear that they are in place to entrench grudging familiarity and helplessness in the face of official intrusions into one's private affairs. The more ridiculous affronts to privacy that can be conjured --enforced by humorless condescending gorillas with badges and guns-- the better for weakening the average person's position and resolve vis-a-vis any particular law or law enforcement officer.

    Personally I think it's a bit of a backlash against the popular cultural movements of the 60's, and more importantly, the current ground swell of social justice activism in the US and the world (anti-G8, anti-WTO, WSF). Capital is threatened, time to put as many obstacles in place as possible to slow the people down.

  27. heystoopid
    Paris Hilton


    Or , given how poorly the the Major US internal airlines are suffering from a very stupid decision(one of the many if truth be told) that seemed liked a good idea at the time was made during Chairman Ronnie's time in office which proved extremely corrosive on the carriers future profits but not execs pay packets and ensured the continuation life of some ancient Jets being used well beyond their use by dates(Aloha Airlines/Alaska Airlines and so forth).

    Now it is well known all US airlines overbook planes for a combination of no show and no fly passengers like the Ted Kennedy's of this world , so could it be a subtle way by mismatching Sky Marshall's names against the ever increasing no fly list , to actually put paying bums in seats rather then these freeloaders whom the airline has to pay for !

    "Idiocracy" at it's finest !

  28. Anonymous Coward

    @John A Blackley

    "With all of this security on leaving my own country, how come we can't stop foreign criminals from entering the country - seemingly as they please?"

    I dunno...because Airforce One gets a pass?

  29. Anonymous Coward


    "The War on Terror is over. America and Britain lost."

    Yeah and stupidity won.

    Here I will admit that I am an American. But also I have been picked out for 'random' searches so often that it has become a joke among my family and students. (I look Arabic - I am not. I have a VERY german name.) For a while, every time I went to the airport I would get a full body pat down - sometimes more then once.

    Too bad we have a Waron/Moron who is president. He needs to be tried for treason - For lots of reasons. The monkey in the oval office needs to be tried for treason as well.

    There are a lot of things the US does right - Shrub/Chainme is not one of those things. (And now for the Flame - For those of you who love Shrub - bite me.)

  30. Darren7160

    That is why...

    People should be concerned about the wide net cast. An innocent person can have their name entered for any reason. It will forever effect your life and you will have absolutely no idea it is there. But, by the theory of six degrees of separation you are probably guilty anyhow. That is why I believe we should have just bombed Aaron Bacon for 9/11.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Busted: Guns Can't Down Planes...

    Mythbusters busted this one some time ago:

  32. Ross

    Re: John A Blackley

    [If you're in the UK, please ask someone...about fingerprinting you as you're leaving your own country.]

    I asked someone. It turns out you can fly from 4 other terminals at Heathrow. Or, if you fancy you can fly from 29 other airports instead. So basically there is one terminal at one airport where you get fingerprinted.

    [Ask someone about the searches you have to go through to get on a plane to leave your own country]

    The ones that are designed to stop people taking knives, guns, chemicals, etc on board so the plane can be hijacked and flown into a large financial complex in New York (just to pull an example out of thin air)? They are hardly invasive - the most onerous part is having to take my shoes off, as they don't provide any benches for you to sit on to get the things back on.

    The worst part of the UK airport "experience" is the 3 hours stood in the departure area.

  33. David

    @Stu Reeves

    The US.

    You don't really expect shrub to give up power do you? He's got something planned that would put the US into a "state of emergency" which would let him "indefinitely postpone" the next election.

    War with Iran.. Iraq/Afghanistan getting to hot.. Maybe he'll pull off another 9/11 - it worked well last time he did it. Maybe he'll put on his favourite costume and go play "Osama".. Been a while since we've seen shrub.. er.. Osama on camera after all..

    (do I need the US Alert, er, I mean joke alert icon?)

  34. Jim

    @John A Blackley

    "If you're in the UK, please ask someone (as I'm assuming you're too lazy to read) about fingerprinting you as you're leaving your own country."

    Yes this occurs in one terminal in one airport of the UK (is this even live yet?) and is only to ensure that those getting on planes are the same people who passed through security (supposedly - until they find a better use). What does the US immigration service do with all those fingerprints it collects everytime one enters the US? They don't seem to check to make sure you leave again.

    "Ask someone about the searches you have to go through to get on a plane to leave your own country"

    And these searches are different in the US because? Well apart from TSA being more officious and more likely to flag a false positive (in my experience)? And in the US you have to go through these checks even if you don't leave the country. I have also found that flying a US carrier out of Heathrow usually entails an extra 'securty' search, done by US citizens.

    That said, it is a tough call as to which country will transform to a dictatorial regime first though I think the UK is ahead in terms of spying on its own citizens.

  35. Martin Usher

    One million and counting...

    Apparently our terrorist watch list just keeps growing. And Growing. AND GROWING.

    Its got all sorts on it. Nelson Mandela is apparently a terrorist, he has to apply for a waiver to enter the US.

    These lists should be public property, we should know who's on them and there should be a way to get your name off them. But for now, if that fly drops from the ceiling into the teleprinter and your name comes out -- you're screwed.

    (Fly reference -- go get a copy of "Brazil", watch it and marvel how the people who made it were able to see into the future.)

  36. LSIAT

    Question of electricity

    Wonder how Quebec will fare in this. I for one cannot wait to have a way to use electricity in place of oil ...

    Pirate cause.

  37. Dave

    @John A Blackley

    I thought they'd given up on the fingerprinting at T5 because too many people complained and threatened to refuse (with ensuing chaos), and the legal situation was unclear. It's all down to BAA's greed, wanting to make sure that domestic and international passengers get to endure the shopping experience but not wanting to build them separate lounges.

  38. Peter

    Same old, same old. Don't worry, the UK is keeping pace.

    About 30 years ago I shared the same surname, age and car as a rather unfortunate young man who was the new boyfriend of a young lady who had dated an armed robber.

    Poor lad (and lass) left her home in the blagger's motor of choice, a Mini, and ended up with the Sweeney ramming them. Can't recall now, but I believe there was more to it, and a gun was discharged (by a hapless plod), resulting in all the rest letting fly. Luckily, I think they missed.

    Then (totally unrelated) last year I lobbed up at Bristol Airport, and on presentation of my passport was ushered to one side by a very large, if pleasant and chilled out, guy in a suit who it turned out was a police officer.

    One hour later I was given my passport back with an apology and carried on. Turns out I shared a name with 'a person of interest to Interpol'.

    All handled very nicely, but I did opine at the time that whatever else such a chap might do, lobbing up in their own name was surely not going to be one.

    With the IT/database power we have I cannot for the life of me understand how that, on presentation of the correct documentation (with, one presumes extra ID such as a picture at least) it is not a matter of seconds to resolve these issues.

    If it's all on a name, pity any flame-haired, pasty-complexioned, stumpy Irish laddo who lobs up if they're surname is O'binladen:)

  39. Bevyn Quiding
    Dead Vulture

    re Busted: Guns Can't Down Planes...

    9mm + pilot = oops

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Visited the US and enjoyed my visit except for the way that we were treated as we went through customs. My wife was in a wheelchair and they made her get out, (not easy when you are paralysed from the waist down) and proceeded to strip the chair to its parts to check the tubes for god knows what. When nothing was discovered we were left to collect all our belongings, the disassembled chair and our four children and rebuild the chair. No help was offered, no apologies or explanations were given and it was all done in the main concourse in front of all the other passengers.

    While I understand why the US feels the need to improve its border security, a little commonsense and compassion wouldn't go amiss. Perhaps some attention to the sieve that is the Mexican border wouldn't hurt either. As a result of our experience we have decided not to visit again even though my wife has family there.

    Also because of the liberties being taken with our Liberty in the UK we emigrated three years ago.

    People say that the world is a smaller place these days. For us it really is and it wasn't the terrorists that did it, it was the governments response and the effects they have had on ordinary people.

    Anonymous because you never know who's watching you.

  41. stizzleswick

    @ John A. Blackley

    Last time I looked, most European airports did checks on their passengers departing for any route that takes them through U.S. airspace because they were forced to do so by the FAA -- which will deny overflight rights to any plane carrying passengers not so checked.

    Currently, several cases are making their way through the diverse courts of Europe to see whether it is actually legal to send passenger data ahead without explicitly informing the passengers about a. the data being sent, b. what data is being sent, c. why it is sent and d. making certain that the data is not stored or passed on within the U.S. without the express permission of the passenger.

    Personally, my dear USians who come to visit Europe, you are welcome to your own medicine. I have been to the continental bits of your wonderful country often enough, and I have never understood why I was being treated as a criminal (fingerprints taken, mug shot, unfriendly interrogation, all obviously filed away in a database -- on one visit I was asked follow-up questions to something I had said a year earlier, at a different airport).

    I fly a lot, thankfully mostly within Europe, and I don't even need to carry a passport here, let alone a visa. Plus, the customs officers here are friendly and polite for the most part.

    P.S.: I Don't Do T5. Hope I'll never need to.

  42. scott
    Black Helicopters

    Nothing new here, move along, move along...

    Nothing new here, move along, move along...

    About 15 yrs ago I had a very early wakeup call by two of Strathclyde Police finest. They asked if the address was correct (kinda obvious, since they were in front of my door), then my surname – I responded ‘twas correct also. They said they had a warrant for my arrest and would I mind accompanying them to the local plodshop.

    Certainly worked better than a bowl of Crunch Nut Cornflakes and a hot shower to clear the hangover that one…

    Must have been in the more civilised time when a suspect still had “rights”. I kindly asked to see the warrant, and voila – twas someone else’s first name (and different DOB). Given I have the most common surname around, and in student flats there’s a pretty large turnover – it wasn’t a statistical miracle. However, no tazers, handcuffs, firearms or dragging off in PJs to sit in a cell for 12 hours before being released sans apology/lift back home were required. They were quite polite and apologetic, although I think they did have a bit of a giggle scaring the cr@p out of a hapless hung-over student.

    OK – maybe the difference is back then they only had the national plod DB to correct, and local council spies didn’t have access….

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Guns plus no-fly list equals...?

    So these armed Sky Marshalls are being denied permission to fly. Which effectively means that they were (as far as the securigoons stopping them were concerned) undesirables attempting to board a flight while armed. So surely they should be extraordinarily rendered or whisked off to Gitmo.

    Or maybe the securigoons accepted that the Air Marshalls were really what they claimed, but denied them boarding anyway. Why? Becasuse they're too stupid to realise that they've had a false positive? Or for some other reason?

  44. Jeff Dickey

    @Stu Reeves

    The race is already over.

    "If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator" - G. W. Bush, on CNN, 18 December 2000.

    Everything that's happened since has been consistent with publicly-stated policy. in olden days, the "Free World" was basically everyplace outside the USSR. Come the Bushit Revolution (remember, the 'll' is always silent), the "Free World" now comprises all areas outside what once was a Constitutional republic called the United States of America (1789-1992).

    Not bothering to AC since 1) I emigrated almost 5 years ago and b) so long as the UK security agencies are so tightly knit to the ex-US insecurity agencies, this is just another corroborating data point.

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