Here's what happened. We went to visit my parents in Colorado for the holidays. When we got to the Burbank Airport, the skycap asked for our IDs. He noticed that my wife driver's license had expired. He excused himself and came back about five minutes later, and said we could fly, but that Carla would have to undergo "secondary screening," which meant she had to take her shoes off and have all her carry-on luggage searched. It was a hassle, especially since we had a lot of carry-on stuff for our six-year-old and infant daughter, but at least they let us fly to Denver.
A week later, we got to the Denver Airport to go home. Carla showed the agent her ID, and the woman didn't say anything about it being expired. I thought we had gotten lucky. But when we got to the security screening area, the woman working there looked at our tickets and said "Who is Sarina?" I pointed to my six-year-old. "She's been marked for secondary screening," she said. "She has to go over there. One of you can go with her." Carla went with Sarina and I went through the normal line with Jane. While Carla was escorting Sarina through the extra security check, she asked for an explanation. A man working there told her Sarina was on a list that required the extra search, and that he couldn't tell her anything more about it.
My daughter was scared and shaken up by the ordeal and told us that she "hated it." At least the security people were polite to her. But they were like polite robots, unable to laugh at the fact that someone had mistakenly pegged a little girl as a potential terrorist. No, they insisted that she had to take off her shoes and get patted down and have a wand passed over her body and have her Hello Kitty suitcase opened and examined with a fine toothed comb.
When we got to the gate, I looked at one of the monitors, and I saw Sarina's name on the list, along with one other person's name. The list was titled "CAPPS."
My guess is that somebody decided to put Carla on the CAPPS list for showing up with an expired driver's license, and then screwed up by entering Sarina's name instead.
I'm not too mad or upset about this, but after reading how this kind of thing has happened more than once, I have lost what little faith I had in the Department of Homeland Security to do its job. I wonder if we are going to have to go through this every time we fly? I also wonder if we can get Sarina's name taken off the list? If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Read some comments I've gotten on this so far.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects