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TSA's Secure Flight Another Band-Aid for Incompetence

Last August, the Transportation and Security Administration unveiled its Secure Flight initiative, where passengers would also have to add their full name, birthdate and sex whenever they purchase or reserve a plane ticket. In that way they can match that information to government watchlists. Apparently it's for our benefit, so no one is mistaken for a person of interest. That's going into effect now, with airlines phasing in the program in the coming months.

Although TSA's Secure Flight was supposed to be implemented in early 2010, it's obvious it's been placed on the fast track after the attempted terrorist attack in on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 Christmas Day.

But in reality, what is adding our birthdate, full name and sex to our ticket information really doing? Isn't it simply saving a TSA employee a few minutes while they run a computer program? I highly doubt anyone has gotten on a plane with a ticket in a name different from their ID, at least not in the last few years where showing ID is mandatory, so the reasoning is only to make it easier for government employees processing names -- not airlines and not consumers.

In the long run, this new policy isn't as invasive as digital strip searches or pat-downs, but it doesn't seem to have merit. This new policy is really to make the TSA's job easier without any added security benefit -- the burden of proof should rely on the government, not the individual. The truth is that the TSA should have been taking the government watch lists more seriously and then the attempted bombing on Northwest 253 could have been avoided. (The attempted bomber was on a government watch list, had purchased an international one-way ticket and had no luggage, usually a red flag.)

It turns out that U.S. State Department, instead of admitting incompetence in not revoking the suspect's visa, is blaming the problem on a misspelling of bombing suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab's name. Even more reason for the TSA to demand passengers to write out their names, because the federal government apparently can't spell. (The Economist suggests the agency get new software that matches similar sounding names.)

Until the TSA and other federal agencies monitor and act on suspicious activity and individuals, TSA Secure Flight is merely a smokescreen for their incompetence.