Ed Driscoll


THIS IS PATHETIC: If you’re name is David Nelson, you’re in for the hassle of your life if you fly. Whether you’re Ozzie and Harriet’s 66 year old son, or this fellow:

Take 73-year-old David Nelson, a retired building manager from South Pasadena. His name provoked mass confusion at LAX last August, when he was trying to get to Madison, Wis., for a high school reunion.

Eventually a manager appeared and said, “I’m sorry, your name has appeared on the watch list.”

Then Nelson was surrounded by a swarm of security officers — “I guess so I wouldn’t make a break for it,” said Nelson, who walks with a cane.

* * *
Indeed, several David Nelsons said airline officials told them the name was listed because a man named David Nelson once barged into an airplane cockpit. Federal officials would not confirm the story.

The main problem, Kennedy said, is the shroud of secrecy that surrounds the TSA’s name-matching technology, Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening Program (CAPPS), which was rolled out after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The TSA acknowledges the existence of a “no fly” list that contains names of suspected terrorists and others who are barred from boarding a commercial aircraft. The agency also acknowledges a so-called “selectee” list of those identified for extra scrutiny before boarding.

Melendez described the selectee list as “very dynamic and always changing. It’s really not even a list at all.”

If it’s very dynamic, then why have all of these Nelsons been stopped at airports? Somebody needs to update the database, or at least allow for descriptive information (height, weight, hair color, age) to go with a name.

UPDATE: Asparagirl has some thoughts as well.