Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mikey, the Terror Suspect

The danger of watch-lists is just that they are just lists. Words after words after words. Names upon name upon name.

There is the name Michael Hicks not on the US no-fly list but on the list of selectee's who are treated to extra security and full body pat downs anytime they fly. It has happened to Michael 'Mikey' Hicks for the past 6 years. So who is this wanten terror suspect?

Here you are. This American boy scout, son of a US Navy veteran has been subject to tight security and full body pat downs since he was 2!

Compare his plight with that of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who was the Christmas day underpants bomber. Mr Abdulmutallab was on the 550,000-name Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database, but not the 2,500 name no fly list nor the 13,500 name list that Mikey finds himself on and subject to every time he flies.

His mother is campaigning to sort out her sons listing saying:

"You could have seen that he was 2; that he was 3, 4 or 5. Now it’s scary because he’s 8. What happens when he is 16?"

It is quite a point of course. From about that sort of age I started to travel alone. I wasn't on any list, as far as I know, but obviously things were intense. If you notice at Heathrow airport, even to this day the Belfast departure gate is way off to the edge of the complex. When I was sixteen we didn't even check in hold luggage the normal way at check in, our went with us to the gate. Thankfully the IRA didn't employ suicide bombing techniques or heaven knows what would have happened.

Every time I went through either an airport or ferry terminal I made sure I had my photographic ID on me to just travel to another part of the UK. I invariably got stopped, young man travelling alone. It was a part of my student live, but it happened to all of us. We weren't singled out, we all got the same treatment and knew nothing else.

Young Mikey here may end up knowing nothing else, but he will also know that he is somehow erroneously being singled out. Who knows how that will make him feel as he gets older and starts to understand what is going on.

We need to be vigilant that is certain, but we should be so heavy-handed that it encroaches on a person's individual freedoms to this degree when it is so clearly wrong. The problem is also that these edicts that individual names are suspect leads to a lack of common sense from the people at the far end of the chain from those who set up these lists, the people who actually implement their requirements.

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