CNN reporter says bad things about the TSA, gets hassled every time he flies

CNN reporter Drew Griffin reported on the TSA's 1,000,000+ name watchlist of "potential terrorists," and now his name seems to have been added to the list. The TSA denies it, but Griffin is held up every time he flies, and the airlines tell his that it's because he's on the list:
"Coincidentally, this all began in May, shortly after I began a series of investigative reports critical of the TSA. Eleven flights now since May 19. On different airlines, my name pops up forcing me to go to the counter, show my identification, sometimes the agent has to make a call before I get my ticket," Griffin reported. "What does the TSA say? Nothing, at least nothing on camera. Over the phone a public affairs worker told me again I'm not on the watch list, and don't even think that someone in the TSA or anyone else is trying to get even."

The TSA, which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security, said Griffin's name wasn't even on the watch list, and the agency blamed the airlines for the delays the reporter experienced. The airlines, on the other hand, said they were simply following a list provided by TSA.



  1. Well, citizen, I see that your name is not on The List — this in and of itself is suspicious. I think we’d better keep an eye on you.

  2. “Shut up! Be Happy! The comfort you’ve demanded has now become mandatory…” -Jello Biafra

    Stop worrying! They’re only after the bad guys, right? *wink wink*

  3. Maybe it would easier to keep a list of people _not_ on the list, which will only become shorter and more manageable with time.

  4. Even though I’m in the military and I’m required to fly in uniform half the time I fly somewhere (I only fly on duty, really), I always get the “random search” bullshit. Anyone in uniform are exempt, but I got an MP5k pointed at me once in NYC for refusing. Apparently, they don’t like it when you know your rights better than they do.

  5. Greetings

    I guess we can fly those flags at half-staff, freedom is dead and we the sheep were fully complicit in the homicide

    But don’t worry, the bad ole islamofascists won’t get you, who needs liberty when you’re safe

    You are safe?

    Because you sure as hell aint America anymore

    Enjoy the journey


  6. What’s the long term prognosis for the TSA? Every day I read a new story about how out of control they are, but I see no signs that things are getting better. Will Congress eventually cut back or properly regulate this agency, or is this going to be a permanent feature of life in the USA?

  7. bad news always travel faster, hey, it’s not a perfect system to watch over our right.

  8. They’re makin’ a list,
    They’re checkin’ it twice,
    They’re gonna find out who’s naughty or nice,
    TSA won’t let yooouuuu
    Leave town.

    (everybody now)

    They see you when you’re sleeping,
    They know when you’re awake,
    They know if you’ve been …

    .. oh god I’m creeping myself out.

  9. Zyklon – it was only an MP5k! They can’t have been serious.

    All teh kool kidz are getting painted with proper carbines these days.

  10. You think that’s bad? Just imagine holding a foreign passport. Fingerprints, questions, routine suspicion … and I’m from the UK, not anywhere near the Axis … THE AXIS! Fingerprints! Dopey questionnaires (are you or have you ever been a member of the communist party … uh, is that REALLY your focus?!)

    ! Pre-registration for travel next year!

    I lived in the US for many years, in the 70s and 80s, and it seems they might have been glory days for freedom. How do you go from ‘Stand by Me’ to this?

    And at the same time, how many shooting deaths per year? Road deaths? I know I rant, I know you know this, but what’s going on?

    I think they get their ideas not from brain-storming for months, but simply watching Blade Runner etc and thinking “hey, that’ll impress the chief! Chief, Chief, ELECTRONIC identity cards!”


  11. USA: tinpot dictatorship.

    At least certain officials like to behave as if it is. When are they going to start expecting bribes?

  12. I tried to get on The List several years ago, after it came out that anti-war protesters were getting on it. I sent TSA an email saying that while I had never attended a peace rally because I worked for a living, I definitely had anti-war sentiments and felt I belonged on The List. I also commented that I knew other peace-loving people, and asked to clarify if it would be my patriotic duty or un-American of me to turn in their names as well.

    They responded with a cheesy form email assuring me I’m not on The List. I emailed back to restate my desire to be put ON the list, and they never answered back.

    Although I did get the Special Search almost every time I flew after that.

    I think everyone should request to be on The List – surely we’re all guilty of some sort of thoughtcrime. At some point, as more and more people are added, it will become worse than useless and have to be scrapped.

  13. #14: ROFL

    #8: I have the perfect image: The He-Man-as-a-mall-security-guard sketch from Robot Chicken.

    (Picture a blonde, mulleted TSA guard whipping out a sword and yelling “By the power of Grayskull!”)

  14. Come on, the Bush administration retaliating against someone that exposes them doing some nonsense? Next thing you will be telling me is they expose undercover CIA agents to get back at their husband even if it endangers her or the country. Please.

  15. Everyones on the list!
    Working for an airline has it just as bad if not worse. TSA as well as educated guessers of sorts claim that the next sort of attack will be an “inside” job.
    Going to work and getting heckled and searched 3 different ways on 3 separate days while I wear my same standard uniform that Ive worn for 2 years is utterly stupid. They have no consistency to procedures and thats their real problem

  16. remember the anti-Bush protester with the sign: “will someone give this idiot a blow-job so we can impeach him?”

    “Hawley said. “We have to do our job of not letting prohibited items through, but my job is not finished until I’ve stopped an attack.”

    The TSA will ultimately CAUSE an attack.

  17. You know you’re in trouble when the taser bracelet they issue you is twice the size of everyone else’s and has it’s own charging station.

  18. Homeland security like the War on Drugs is a gigantic and evil make work program that will resist with its dying breath any effort whatsoever to dismantle it. Mandatory minimum sentences must now stay on the books to combat rural unemployment in the back-counties where your grafty politicians have located their concentration camps to hold the prisoners of War on Drugs…your tech is too good, your education system too poor…overproduction of all commodities via ever-more-efficient tech means fewer and fewer share in the profits of activity…or are needed to produce those commodities…Marx was right as to overproduction being capitalism’s greatest failing (but Marx was wrong in the more fundamental matter of the predictability of sci/tech change)…nevertheless US efficiency has resulted in an economy which has more than ever a population of “useless” (for economic production) people.
    So create new crimes and hire ’em on as enforcement thugs to further protect the upper-classes not from danger but the feeling that they are in danger….sadly enforcement has the only “blue-collar” jobs that are growing in number and whose wages have kept pace….and all of these people have a stake in the system making it easier to get people into the”Justice system”…and life in the USA gets worse for all….
    Perhaps a little Christian “turning of the other cheek” applied to marijuana/psych/cocaine users (who do not “strike” the first chhek/blow anyway) would make US society better? You know a little Charity to the unemployed/broke/stoned, that Charity without which Faith is Nothing …but US Christians are too busy conquering the Middle East to care much about their fellow-citizens (they do care enough to insult them and throw them in Jail for life for nothing, though..)

  19. he works for CNN and therefore is only lying in the bed he and his ilk have made. serves him right

  20. @9, @31:

    Regarding uniforms… the problem is that the uniform does not authenticate you. To you, it makes sense that you let you through because you’re wearing a uniform and thus obviously belong there/aren’t a terrorist.

    But what if a terrorist stole a uniform? They’d look like they belong there, and wouldn’t be checked.

    Don’t get me wrong, the whole state of affairs is ridiculous. But it’ll only become more ridiculous by exempting people from being checked because of their claimed affiliations/jobs.

  21. The airlines, on the other hand, said they were simply following a list provided by TSA.

    See? A list, not THE list. This guy’s just on the “fuck you” list, not the “we actually think you’re a terrorist” list.

  22. A coworker with a fairly common Irish last name noted that his 11 year old son was on the watch list and the 11 year old gets pulled over EVERY time.

    This is why I think those celebrities that give their kids uncommon names (like “pilot inspector” or “Apple”) are geniuses

  23. Pleeeeeeeeease. He’s not on a government watch list because he did that story. That is totally ridiculous! Absurd!

    He’s obviously on the list because he’s a vegan.

  24. @36

    The same people that work at TSA see me every single day and recognize me and my badge, regardless of what Im wearing. It just depends on what kind of mood these screeners are in at the particular time I walk through those metal detectors or if they happen to be undergoing an audit by a head honcho.

    What it really comes down to is, if anyone really wants to do something they are going to find a way to do. The extra searches and random checks only hassle, embarrass, and abuse us ordinary hardworking citizens.

  25. You know, we get a bonus for every name we add to The List. I’m cleaning up here. Keep posting, my pretties, and you little dogs too.

  26. Troubling Security Authorities (personal fav)

    Thought Seems Atrocious

    Technically Stupid Administration

    This Sucks Ass

    Tofu Seems Amicable

    Thinly Secretive Atrociousness

    The Scumbag Act

  27. I think everyone should request to be on The List

    Great idea. It’s the patriotic duty of all American citizens to monkeywrench these fascist bastards at every opportunity.

    Total Shitheads Abound

  28. #18 – Did you catch this quote from your link?

    TSA has screened 3.5 billion passengers since the start-up of the agency, Hawley said, adding, “That’s more than the population of the world…”

    Try ‘off by nearly half’?

  29. #50 – I was about to post on that. I even went and double checked, it caused me such a WTF moment.

  30. why, just once, can’t the TSA be right and the airlines be wrong? I mean, isn’t it even possible?

    Possible? Sure. It’s just not very likely.

  31. Since this appears to be mostly an add only watch list we just need to somehow get every major corporate board member, journalist, and politician local and national. Then sit back and wait for the powerful to get angry.

  32. RE: #57

    It was not the 3.5 Billion passengers screened that I was questioning, it was his assertion that it was more than the population of the world.

    Per the World Population Clock the current world population is ~6.68 Billion, almost double his 3.5 billion figure.

  33. RE: #63 posted by Ken Hansen

    No worries! Now the goofiness of his quote can be enjoyed by all!

  34. #57:

    As the TSA is fond of pulling facts and figures “straight outta Compton” as it were, it is impossible to give credence to anything that they report.

    Unless they have secretly murdered half of the world’s poplulation, that is…

  35. #28, you are my hero!

    #7 Maybe it would easier to keep a list of people _not_ on the list, which will only become shorter and more manageable with time.

    At first I thought – but mostly The List will contain common names that catch many people, whereas the world is full, and getting fuller, of people with unusual and unique names, who are not yet on The List. But then I realized that the fact of having an unusual and unique name is surely enough to put you on The List, and the fact that they’re not on it yet is probably just an oversight.

    So in fact your proposal is the more sound approach, as is nips in the bud any devious attempts to keep a potential terrorist off the list for a little while by naming the sprog Scheyantallee Tuningfork Williams.

  36. “Hawley said. “We have to do our job of not letting prohibited items through, but my job is not finished until I’ve stopped an attack.”

    Isn’t that a blatant admission that the TSA hasn’t stopped a single credible threat so far?

  37. As someone who WAS on the list — I think TSA is right in saying some airlines are slow in taking you off THEIR list … because now when I fly, some airlines don’t have me on the list anymore, and some do — which seems like a clear case of differing levels of record management by the airlines. I’m not an apologist for these clowns by any means (that prolly just got me back on the list), they’re chilling language when they wouldn’t tell me if my petition to get off the list was accepted (“that’s all the language we have available at this time”) made me want to take out a loan and hire the thuggiest lawyer I could find to sic on their bureaucratic-ass …

  38. I recently wrote a story set in a near-future USA where you have to get on the “fly list” to be able to travel.

  39. Ummm…has the no-fly list actually led to the actual capture of anyone wanted for a crime? At all? Or is is so Top Sekrit that even if it actually has resulted in apprehension of a real bad guy, they “can’t tell us”?

  40. More details needed. Where in the check-in process is all this happening? He says he has to go to the counter and show his ID to get his ticket. Uh, everyone has to do that.

    Assuming he has to do something we don’t, I’m wondering how significant 11 flights is. What proportion of his airline flights is that? It seems like a lot, but perhaps he’s been flying three or four times a week, and the pattern is just confirmation bias. How many times had this happened to him before the article?

    “Sometimes” the person at the counter has to make a phone call. How many times is that? How many times had this happened to him before the article?

    I hate the TSA as much as anyone, but I’m not convinced something funky is going on here.

  41. @76 “He says he has to go to the counter and show his ID to get his ticket. Uh, everyone has to do that.”

    Not true. I never show my id until I hit TSA – I use an eTicket and check in on line. This is the way most regular fliers with carry on luggage do things.

  42. Terrorists Systematically Approve

    Take Something Away

    Taste Stifling Authority

    Tacitly Sacrifice Autonomy

    Terribly Shameful Actions

    Take-downs Seem Arbitrary

    Torture Some Arabs

    Tactile Senseless Advances

    Truly Seeks Abrogation

  43. It’s not 3.5 billion passengers, it’s 3.5 billion screenings of a MUCH smaller number of individuals. Even in simple things like that the Kipper can’t be accurate. You don’t actually expect a “high official” in THIS administration to know how many people are on Earth, do you?

    As to “The List” having a million people on it – or not – the problem is once again threefold…

    (1) How many individual names are on the list.
    (2) How many actual “terrorists” those names are attached to (often several names PER TERRORIST).
    (3) The important one: How many people does the list directly affect.

    For the last one, for example, if “J. Smith” were on The List, that, right there, would mean that over one million people who share that name in the United States would be directly affected.

    What gives the DHS, TSA, and FBI so much wiggle room in saying to all but one of those J. Smiths that they are not on the list is that those throngs are NOT on the list, but someone ELSE who has the same name is.

    So, TSA can quite readily say that anyone who is not actually a terrorist is absolutely not on the list, even if the same name is right there on the list in front of them.

    It’s as sensible as insisting that The Oddssey was not written by Homer, but by another ancient Greek of the same name. *sigh*

    So, while “Drew Griffin,” CNN Reporter is not on The List, “Drew Griffin,” rabid terrorist may be, and that means that a “Drew Griffin” of any sort, even if a child, is EFFECTIVELY on The List for all practical purposes because in looking for that “other Drew Griffin” they will also be run through the same wringer.

    In all honesty, even if The List only cantaind a few thousand quite legitimate names, the EFFECT of such a list would be that many thousand or even million people would be affected because of their sharing the name.

    I really think an HONEST answer by DHS/TSA/FBI as to the list should be a double answer, such as (made up numbers) 400,000 names on the list subjecting 10.2 million individuals to additional search and validation security measures.

    Anything else only tells a tiny part of the story,and we all know that the best way to tell a lie is to only tells so much of the truth.

    (And yes, it’s not just a name similarity, I’m the same “Tomas” that appears on the TSA’s “Evolution of Security” blog… Hi, Kip!)

  44. One point I haven’t seen is that even if we believed the TSA was working for the greater good, what do you want to bet that there are no firm controls in place concerning how TSA employees add someone’s name to the list?

    In other words, I’d bet it’s as easy as hell for practically anyone in the TSA to put someone’s name on the list. With 1,000,000+ names, you KNOW they don’t have committees or background checks or any kind of error tracking and self-monitoring in place.

    I’d bet all anyone needs to do is fill out some online form, enter a name, make up some stupid reason and click “send” and then, bam, that name is on the list.

    Surely someone reading Boingboing works for the TSA and can tell us how a name is added…

  45. Tough Shit, America.

    Padster123 @22, they already are. Last year I was scheduled for a flight out of an airport terminal that had exceptionally incompetent security procedures. The only way I got to my plane on time was by bribing one of the employees.

    Takuan @26, the Clear program’s problems only start with the institutionalization of bribery.

    First: it punches a huge hole through our airport security systems. Giving up two pieces of gov’t ID plus your fingerprints and iris images, and passing a quick background check, is no guarantee that you aren’t a terrorist. The guys who carried off the 9/11 attacks would all have been eligible for Clear registrations.

    Second, if it’s supposed to yield quicker security checks for Clear registrants, they can’t be taking fingerprints and doing iris scans at the security checkpoint. Therefore, the actual checking mechanism will be that the person getting checked through looks reasonably similar to the person on the Clear documentation, and holds passable specimens of the government ID listed on it.

    Third, I strongly doubt there are going to be adequate security measures protecting the registrant info. If the system leaks, which it likely will, it’s going to be a cornucopia of high-quality information for identity thieves and other impersonators. An additional piece of fallout will be that everyone with a Clear registration will have their ID permanently compromised. You can get a new driver’s license or a new passport, but you can’t get new fingerprints and irises.

    Fourth, if the Clear system catches on, it means the full weight of the TSA’s inconvenience, irrationality, and petty tyranny won’t fall on the powerful, important, knowledgeable, or well-connected. It’s much harder to correct abuses that don’t fall on those groups.

    Fifth, having private contractors keep our security lists is a thin fiction. If the government laid down the criteria for the list, and has constant access to it, then the government is keeping lists of who is and isn’t allowed to travel. They’re just keeping them in a place where normal oversight and regulations don’t apply.

    This is troubling. All you’d have to do is declare we’re in imminent danger of attack, then crank up the security to eleven, to turn our airport security system into one where only people who’ve been given clearance by the government are allowed to travel freely. It would be quasi-legal. You aren’t keeping people from traveling if you make them wait in a security line for three hours, then tell them they’re now required to show a notarized copy of their birth certificate, then tell them they can’t be allowed past that point because they have to have a valid gate pass, and the one they’re holding is for a flight that left hours ago.

    The TSA already has a Human Resources department. What reason is there for them to contract out their HR work to Lockheed, if not to put it outside normal governmental oversight?

    AFO @41: That’s a good point. If the guy’s not on the no-fly list, but the airlines say they were following a list provided by the TSA, then the TSA is maintaining and using lists the public isn’t being told about.

    Ken Hansen (58), I’m sorry you missed our discussion of the TSA numbers just the other day, in particular the complete unreliability of that specific quote from the TSA.

    Spare us the heavy-handed sarcasm. We don’t trust the TSA because they’ve demonstrated over and over again that they’re not trustworthy.

    Meanwhile, the quotes from Kip Hawley in that article Takuan linked to are appalling:

    TSA has screened 3.5 billion passengers since the start-up of the agency, Hawley said, adding, “That’s more than the population of the world. That means that our officers, when they’re not focused on the Standard Operating Procedure and they’re not going through our checklist, that they’re going through information in their own subconscious. This is incredibly valuable information that allows them to pick up on cues if we train them on it and encourage them to use it.” The Checkpoint Evolution training means getting away from the mentality of, “Did I complete the checklist? If I did, I’m done with my job,” Hawley said. “We have to do our job of not letting prohibited items through, but my job is not finished until I’ve stopped an attack.”

    If he thinks that’s stopping an attack, he’s incompetent. What he’s talking about doing is training and encouraging screeners to depart from whatever guidelines they’ve been using, and give free rein to “information in their own subconscious.”

    That’s insane. The reason you have guidelines for security personnel is to keep them from operating on that basis. The subconscious is good at putting odd clues together and telling you when to flee, but it’s neither just nor consistent. Your subconscious can help inform your implementation of guidelines, but it can’t be allowed to supersede them.

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