Sep 23 2008

How to Circumvent the Watch Lists: Change Your Name

The CBC has an interesting story that exemplifies a significant problem with the watch lists: It is very easy to get around the lists.

Mario Labbé, an executive with a Montreal-based record company, says his Canadian passport triggers a red alert on the computers of U.S. customs agents every time he tries to board a flight to the U.S. —
which is about once a month for the past seven years. […]

Although Labbé wrote letters to the U.S. department, his efforts were in vain, prompting him to legally change his name.

“So now, my official name is François Mario Labbé,” he said.

“Then you have to change everything: driver’s license, social insurance, medicare, credit card — everything.”

Although it’s not a big change from Mario Labbé, he said it’s been enough to foil the U.S. customs computers.

In the US, there have been other examples of innocent people trying to work around the terrorist watch lists. For example, eight-year-old James Robinson has had numerous problems because he is continuing mismatch to the watch lists. His family has had to make changes in order to get eight-year-old James on to flights.

According to CNN, “Denise Robinson says she tells the skycaps her son is on the list, tips heavily and is given boarding passes. And booking her son as “J. Pierce Robinson” also has let the family bypass the watch list hassle.

The ease with which someone can circumvent the watch lists illustrates the utter futility of identity-based security programs as a whole. Rather than waste time and money, and needlessly sacrifice liberty in the process of conducting this security theater, TSA should concentrate more on its job of preventing weapons and explosives from getting on planes.