Monday, June 18, 2007

The no-fly list: Right ends, wrong means

Since 9/11, airlines have had reason and rightfully so to fear hijack attempts. A no-fly list of potential suspects -- such as the one Canada put into place today -- makes sense on the surface but it's fraught with pitfalls. The most common of these are people who are excluded because they have the same or similar names to those on the list. Just ask Maher Arar. Or Edward Kennedy -- yes, Senator Kennedy (D-MA) who's been stopped from boarding planes no less than five times in the last three years.

Kennedy's case was worth a laugh. Certainly not Arar's. And definitely not those law abiding citizens who just happen to have a shared identity with a terrorist or wanted fugitive.

There has to be a better way. Why not fingerprinting? Or interrogating passengers when they hit the check-in counter, like they do at David Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv? In the 30 or so years since Israel put in its get tough policy at the airports, there has been only one hijack attempt and it was quickly quelled by air marshalls anyway. And there's nothing wrong with a bit of civilian vigilance in flight -- such as what actor James Woods did when he reported on a few of the 9/11 hijackers a month before the massacre but was ignored.

It's true that to have freedom and peace, we must accept responsibility and prepare for war. But isn't this going about it entirely the wrong way?

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