Who am I?
I’m a terrorist. And I fly a lot.
I’m not an actual “terrorist,” but years ago the the government convicted me of a property crime it deemed “terrorism,” and since then, life has been interesting.
Especially flying. Since 2009, I’ve been on the TSA’s “terrorist watch list.” Not quite the “no fly list”, but close.
This means that when I fly, the TSA goes crazy. At various times, I’ve been refused entry to planes, tailed through airports, and told my Starbucks coffee might be a bomb.
This is my journal of traveling in post-9-11 America as someone on the government’s “terrorist” list. And it’s a lot funnier than you’d think…
Why am I on The List?
(Update, 10-22-2014: In light of my identity and crime being exposed (in a fair way) on Forbes today, a note to anyone who considers these actions to be “terrorism”: real terrorism can be viewed here and here.)
Years ago I was convicted of an activist-related property crime. The government deemed it “terrorism.” My “weapon of mass destruction” was a small tool purchased at a hardware store for under $30. My crime resulted in a loss of profits to several businesses. No one was injured. And it wasn’t even a felony.
But they put me on “The List.” The government loooves labeling those convicted of politcally-motivated property crimes as “terrorists.” And the lack of awareness and transparency allows them to get away with it. I don’t even plan to get political here, but seriously, it’s really stupid.
The upside: While air travel for must is mundane and routine, for me it’s an unending adventure as I approach each airport, wondering: “What will the TSA do to me next?”
What is The List (aka Terrorist Watch List, Selectee List, etc)?
After 9-11, congress directed the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to identify people “who may be a threat to civil aviation or national security.”Those on The List are not allowed to be told why they are on The List, and the requirements for being added to The List are not made public. As of 2009, it is believed there are 14,000 people on The List.
But only one writing about it.
Why write about it?
- Flying as a convicted terrorist is hilarious.
- To put a spotlight on the government quietly adding thousands of Americans to a secretive watch list, without due process or any means to contest it.
(A convicted terrorist’s boarding pass. Note the “SSSS” in two places)
What the TSA does when someone like me flies
Here’s the abridged protocol:
- I obtain a boarding pass. It is emblazened with four large S’s. Like this: “SSSS.”
- At security, the TSA sees the S’s. Their eyes get big. They turn between 90 and 180 degrees, lean into their radio, and whisper for backup.
- A senior officer approach, announces I have been “selected” for special screening. I am told to follow them.
- I am escorted to the front of the line (this is the good part). My carry-on items are placed in a bright red bin.
- I am shadowed through the body scanner.
- I receive what I will euphemistically call a “thorough pat-down.”
- My luggage is ripped apart, swabbed for explosive residue, my computer turned on, and everything generally put under a microscope.
- TSA takes my ID into a back room and calls the FBI to report my travels.
- Meanwhile, TSA mobilizes a “random security audit” at the gate, re-checking IDs and searching luggage of everyone on my flight.
- I am not allowed to sit in an exit row.
- I am not allowed to check in from home.
- I am not allowed to opt-out of the body scanner.
If this doesn’t exactly sound like high drama, just wait. The TSA is so disorganized and arbitrary, the results are a pure comedy of errors. Each time I fly the TSA manages to get something wrong, display some level of colossal incompetence, and generally make themselves worthy of being made fun of on the internet.
Happy to oblige.