Posted by: laughs4dads | June 30, 2010

Be Careful Flying With Kids

Back in May, in a post about family travel, I jokingly wrote:

If you’re flying, before leaving for the airport, make sure your child is not on any terrorist watch lists. There’s always an article in the newspaper about some airport security guard pulling a kid out of line because his name matched one on the list. Alternatively, you could not name your child Osama.

I was joking because, apparently, it doesn’t matter what you name your child. Take the case of a 6-year-old girl named Alyssa from Westlake, Ohio, who was pulled out of a security line when she tried to travel on that heavily trafficked terrorist route from Cleveland to Minneapolis.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking her last name must have been Laden (get it? “been Laden”). Or something Arabic-sounding.

How about “Thomas?” That’s right, she has the same last name as “That Girl,” Marlo Thomas, who wrote Free to Be You and Me.

Now to be fair to Homeland Security, Marlo’s father, Danny Thomas, was proudly of Lebanese descent, and worked under an alias his whole life. (His real name was Amos Alphonsus Muzyad Yakhoob, so he could only have changed it for nefarious reasons.) He was most famous for starring in the TV show Make Room for Daddy, but was involved in known terrorists plots like founding St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

Okay, so maybe Alyssa Thomas is no relation to Danny or Marlo. Perhaps she was on the no-fly list because her father’s name is Santosh. That’s his first name. His last name is, um, Thomas. And he’s an orthopedic surgeon at Cleveland Clinic, which not only makes it unlikely that he’s involved with al Qaeda, it also explains his suspicious act of being in Cleveland, where, clearly, no one would be without a really good reason.

All right, all right. So a mistake was made. It was just a simple matter of Dr. Thomas writing to the authorities to have his daughter’s name taken off the no-fly list so they didn’t have to show up 5 hours early every time they wanted to fly, which is difficult, because, really, how long can you spend browsing around a Brookstone store at the airport?

Eventually, they received a letter back from the government addressed to 6-year-old Alyssa, telling her that nothing in her file will be changed.

In other words, Homeland Security has not made a mistake and thinks that little Alyssa really is a terrorist. How’d you like to be in her first grade class, huh?

An unnamed spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration told Fox News “”The watch lists are an important layer of security to prevent individuals with known or suspected ties to terrorism from flying.”  I don’t know why the spokesperson was unnamed.  Maybe he has a name that would arouse suspicion, like “Lincoln.”  Or just possibly he didn’t want his name associated with a statement that a 6-year-old girl has ties to terrorism.

As a matter of national security, the government won’t comment on whose names are on the no-fly list or why.  I’m not sure it’s a matter of national security. It may be more a matter of potential embarrassment. “Oh, yes,” they would have to admit, “that person is on the list because they watched Disney’s Aladdin 15 times.”

Really, what can a 6-year-old from Ohio have done to arouse suspicion?

I’m sure that’s the question Dr. Thomas is asking himself. He must be wondering when his daughter’s kindergarten class took a school trip to Afghanistan for training. He probably doesn’t remember signing the consent form.

Look, I can understand the need for a no-fly list. I can understand why the government doesn’t want people to know who’s on it or why. I can understand that mistakes are made. But if you’re going to refuse my request to take my 6-year-old daughter off the no-fly list, shouldn’t you tell me why, even if only for my safety as a citizen?

I mean, it’s bad enough living with a 6-year-old and having to watch Barney with her. I don’t want to also have to worry about her blowing up the house!



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