Name on the 'watch list' means rights left behind


POSTED: Monday, June 22, 2009

Like Franz Kafka's protagonist in “;The Trial”; (opening sentence: “;Someone had traduced Joseph K.”;), I suddenly found myself last year, at age 83, a mysterious new entry on the airport terrorists watch list. At the time, I accepted this idiotic charge as simply more evidence of the blundering Bush-Cheney administration's incorrigible incompetence.

When I recently experienced airline boarding delays three times in 11 days, however, my attitude changed from bemusement to fury. Homeland Security Administrator Janet Napolitano still has not fired the Bush-appointed bureaucrat heading the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and she has retained the Kafkaesque Bush-Cheney policy.

Ponder this sentence from Homeland Security's explanation of its watch-list criteria: “;A traveler may be selected for enhanced screening due to a number of reasons based on a variety of factors, or at random”; (italics added). And perpetuating the Bush-Cheney obsession with secrecy, the government still won't tell you why you're on the watch list. (Am I included because of octogenarians' well-known proclivity to become radical jihadists, or simply because I have the same name as someone else on the watch list?)

As a World War II veteran, I am outraged at having my patriotism challenged by a former administration dominated by Vietnam draft dodgers. (Dick Cheney got four student deferments despite flunking grades when he twice dropped out of Yale.)

The TSA form by which you can challenge your inclusion on the watch list reverses the normal of proof; you are assumed guilty until proven innocent. The government, which by its own admission can put you on the watch list at random, bears no burden of proof.

This process is pure Dick Cheney, notorious for reversing the burden of proof. (When the 9/11 Commission reported that it found no evidence supporting Cheney's charge implicating Iraq in the 9/11 attacks, Cheney admitted that there was no positive supporting evidence. He nonetheless defended his charge with this preposterous logic: There was no proof that Iraq wasn't involved in the 9/11 plot.)

Cheney's illogic is a throwback to antiquity. In the second century, Roman emperor Antoninus Pius reversed the ancient criterion of assuming defendants guilty until proven innocent, transferring the proof to government prosecutors.

It's time the Obama administration reversed the Bush-Cheney watch-list policy. The troglodytes are no longer in charge.


C.W. Griffin is a resident of Honolulu.