Sunday, January 22, 2006

Don Quixote and the TSA

Homeland Security Made Perfect

I don't normally use my blog to rant, and I would like to think this post is not a rant but something of importance in sharing information on what is really going on in our country. But it is probably just a rant. So forgive and indulge me.

Just about a year ago, I found out my name had been added to the TSA Watch List which makes flying a royal pain in the posterior. I was added nearly 5 years after 9/11, not immediately after. Rest easy U.S. citizens, Tony Arnold is on the watch list. You are safer.

Now this is an incredibly necessary security measure because screening my check-in luggage, screening my carry-on, and personally checking my ID and boarding pass as I go through airport security (by a TSA employee) is not enough. No, I must also personally check-in to get my boarding pass. The poor airline employee at the ticket counter putting up with frustrated potential terrorists must check me. He or she is the real first line of defense for Homeland Security.

For those on this list: No getting my boarding pass on-line. No getting my boarding at an airline kiosk. We can't even get it at the departure gate or curb-side check-in. The only place we can get a boarding pass is at the airline ticket counter. Go directly to jail, do not pass go; do not collect boarding pass. And we all know that the real criminal will use a name on the Watch List--right?

Without seat assignments, flying Southwest is now miserable. Southwest used to be my favorite airline, but not now because I will always be a "C" boarder. And, someone with a degenerative knee condition, two knee surgeries, and needing one knee replaced, any seat not on an isle is painful. I can endure so I never ask for the blue boarding pass. People with real disabilities need those.

Forget my inconvenience. It was not until I got on this list did I really realize how Draconian and insidious much of our Homeland Security acts are. You cannot find out why you are on this list. The TSA website tells you that you will never be removed from the list. Any real information about the list is buried on the TSA website which is made to look so wonderful and benign that it makes me physically ill.

Here is some real information about the watch list (I do not endorse these websites, FYI only): AlterNet, Infants on the Watch List, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Google TSA Search. I am no fan of the ACLU, but if there was ever a time they could do some real civil liberties work this is it. Here is the ACLU's TSA stance.

It was only when landed on this list I began to see the real Bush administration. I don't think it was coincidence that I also had been having the change of heart on real discipleship about this time and discovering the book Mere Discipleship. God works in mysterious ways to open our eyes.

Anyway, the purpose of my blog is to share my most recent Don Quixote like effort after 9 months of futility following government protocol. I just sent out the letter below in hopes of affecting progress. I sent the letter to the TSA Ombudsman, my Senators, my Congressmen and woman, the White House, and Vice President Cheney. If I drop off the face of the blog world, you can probably guess why. Maybe I will end up on a pop T-shirt or part of a Bono campaign.
Dear ...,

For over a year now, I have been on the TSA Watch List. I submitted the appropriate filings per TSA guidelines to the agency ~9 months ago. I have not received any confirmation on the process. I wait for hours on hold on the phone to find out and never get a human. The one time I did get a human, she did not speak English. Neither of us could understand the other and the call had to be terminated. How can someone who is obviously not a native of this country and cannot speak the language be in involved in national security?

I still cannot fly without duress. The TSA web site tells me I will never be taken off the list although I have done nothing wrong. Ironically, I am the Administration’s ideal demographic: a southern, middle-aged, white, protestant male, professional (EE, MBA), Republican. I voted for President Bush twice. Yet, I have been labeled a potential threat and have no recourse to clear my name.

Is there truly no way to be removed from a government watch list even though innocent of any offense? Is there really no way to find out the status of my filing for clearance?

I have to travel for business often and the TSA falsely accusing me has affected my ability to earn a living. When I travel, I spend more time checking in for flights than I do actual flying. I am forced to drive now if I am within 6-8 hours of my destination.

Please do not respond that I have not been accused of anything and that my rights are not being violated. This is just not true. Prior to Jan. 2005, five years after 9/11, I could travel with ease. Now I am listed on a watch list; cannot get a boarding pass through normal methods; cannot find out why I have been listed; cannot be removed from the list; and cannot get any status on my situation. That is punishment for being a model U.S. citizen.

I have never caused any problem or done anything wrong my entire life. In addition, I pay huge taxes for this right to be incriminated without cause.

Please, there must be some way a law-abiding citizen can be served by his government rather than being punished. Our government is punishing the innocent. This is reminiscent of the progressive repression by the Gestapo during WWII. We are sacrificing freedom for the disillusion of safety. We tell the world and our soldiers that freedom is worth dying for, but then tell our citizens we must sacrifice freedoms for false security. That is not the America we founded. But it seems to be the America our children will inherit.

And to the readers who are chuckling--I agree--I got the government I voted for. But my eyes were not open then. America, I apologize.


jettybetty said...

I am sooo sorry!

JMG said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JMG said...

OK, I vented my true feelings, but it came off a little crass, so I deleted it.

This government is going down a road that we don't want to travel. We are the frog in the pot of water that is slowly being brought to a boil, and we don't know it. We're tolerating more and more encroachment on our rights, and by the time we get fed up, it will be too late.

Well, Jesus didn't promise us "rights" but he did promise suffering.

Ayatollah Mugsy said...

I recently read a story about someone who was able to get off the watch list (though only after a ridiculous amount of hassle), so it is possible. I am sorry that you have to put up with this nonsense. Being such a threat to homeland security, you probably have your phone conversations monitored, as well.

Malia said...

Ugh. I have no words (well as least not Christian publish-able ones!) to express my sentiments about your predicament. I hope and pray that someone will hear you and do the right thing about it.

Tony Arnold said...

Thanks for the sympathy everyone, it means a lot, truly. My situation, although very frustrating, really means little from a personal standpoint. So many others are suffering the same or worse.

JMG hit the nail on the head. This is what I want to raise. The slow erosion of the founding principles of our country, much being done while wrapping Christianity in the flag.

BEWARE and be vocal.

JMG email me your original. I would love to see it and I will keep it private.

You won't see me blogging much on other sites this week. I am on the road which means on the rivers. Spotting access to technology.

JMG said...

On the river. That has got to be so cool. Every time I travel (not often) and cross a big river like the Mississippi, I have to stop and look at it and look at all the barges and boats and wonder where they're going and where they've been, and then I wish I could build a raft like Huck and ride all the way to New Orleans.

JMG said...

Where's your email link?

Tony Arnold said...

I don't have a link. Thought you still might have it from when we exchanged emails when setting up the MD blog. I still have yours so I'll send you an email and you'll have mine.

DB Carden said...

Change your name. It seems like that would be less hassle.....perhaps Ayatollah Mugsy is not on the list, that sounds like a good name.

ajmac said...

Hmmm... Tough break there and I'm sorry you ended up in such a pickle. But why are you apologizing for voting for Dubya? Do you disagree with the new TSA policies? Do you even know the difference between pre- and post-9/11 policy? Do you really imagine that you could have skipped the beaurocratic red tape during the Clinton administration?

Life definitely is not fair. But aren't these the very occasions on which we are called to demonstrate Christ's grace?

You should be proud that you voted for this administration and that you have had a part in freeing millions from the hand of tyranny. I'm sorry that you have borne more than your fair share of the inconveniences, but I fail to see how this is the moral issue you make it out to be.