Monday, December 28, 2009

550,000 Names

So a member in good standing of the Nigerian economic and political elite contacts the US embassy in Yemen. He says his son has gone off the deep end, fallen in with radical jihadis, and has traveled to Yemen to link up with fellow combatants.

And what does the embassy do? They put the son’s name on a list with 550,000 others—people who have attracted suspicion for any reason and no reason, intellectuals or just ordinary people who have expressed ideas evoking the disapproval of US officials (think of Tariq Ramadan), and untold numbers whose names were flagged purely by profiling.

Of course, a list of 550,000 names is no list at all. You are not going to do expanded searches on all of them in airport security lines, nor run all their luggage past canine noses. No, they will just board the airplane, and you must hope for the best.


Martin Langeland said...

Yes. But...
Welcome to our new and improved police state.
Here we have a little list.
Yes, a liitle list of society offenders.
And they never would be missed...
Thanks to that prescient wit W. S. Gilbert.

Anonymous said...

Yes. And, the media spends days talking about it. Meanwhile, in news which will have a far greater impact, Washington is fleecing us with Freddie and Fannie virtually without scrutiny.

Suffern AC said...

In another universe, we would have an inquiry into how someone managed to sneak a little explosive onto a plane and discuss how it would be possible to have 500,000 on one watch list and a few thousand names on a "no fly list" and how those lists are created and used. Instead, we are going to have a discussion about how an epidemic of "political correctness" is leading to terrorist attacks. That was McCain's concern after Fort Hood and if I can believe the Honorable Mr. King from his interview on CBS, too much PC is at the top of his list, too.

Just guessing, but the policy outcome will be longer lists, and strip searches for people with suspicious last names prior to departure and a whole bunch of people reported to be al Qaeda's number two person being captured in airports. We will be safe to fly, until someone figures out how to sneak enough explosives on a plane to, well, give a rug burn. Then the debate over safety can start again.

Since this is an economics blog, is someone aware of anyone working with the economics of "safety?" Is there such a thing as terror inflation, where ever increasing resources are thrown at stopping smaller and smaller acts such that the smallest act of "terrorism" by the most inconsequential "terrorist" must be treated as equivalent to a major terrorist incident? Is the amount of terror created by an act of terrorism directly related to the size of the list of terrorists?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else think it might be of economic concern that the US has ended this year with less manufacturing capacity than it began.

Does anyone consider it significant, that this has never happened in American history - until 2003 - and now it has happend in 3 of the last six years?

IS anyone going to fall for the stupid suggestion that, as Clusterstock put it, this is great because it means fewer competitors.

Are there any economists left on this planet who can understand an indicator. Or, have you all become security/counter-terrorism analysts?