Given that these four men without criminal records or any other obvious reason for government suspicion were, like my partner and me, put on the no-fly list leads me to wonder about the other 21,000 people on that list, including at least 500 Americans. (In fact the overall number could turn out to be as high as 44,000, according to "60 Minutes," or even 48,000, according to the Associated Press. We just don't know because, like so much else in our new post-9/11 world, information about the list remains classified.)
What did all those other people on the list do or refuse to do? How have their lives been damaged? And how dangerous are they really? My partner and I certainly had no intention of turning our airplane into a terrorist weapon. What are the odds that any of the other 21,000 or 44,000 or 48,000 people did? And if potential airplane bombers or hijackers do exist, what are the odds that any of them are actually on the FBI's list? After all, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the "underwear bomber," wasn't. Neither was the infamous "shoe bomber" Richard Reid. All this list-making has been marked by an odd - and dangerous - combination of intrusion and incompetence.