White House press secretary Josh Earnest is focusing on gun control.
According to The Washington Times, Earnest focused his gun control push on repeating the narrative framed around expanding background checks to include individuals listed in the no-fly list. Earnest said, “If it’s too dangerous for you to board a plane, then you should’t be able to buy a gun.”
On November 23 Breitbart News reported that Earnest took this same tact when trying to distract from the criticism Obama was facing over his relentless push to bring Syrian refugees into the U.S. Then, as now, Earnest did not address the imprecision of the no-fly list nor seek to answer the concerns the Huffington Post expressed regarding the ease with which an innocent person can find his name on the list.
In July 2014, the HuffPo highlighted seven ways to end up on the no-fly list, and number seven was simply to be “unlucky.” The HuffPo also pointed to the list’s propensity to cause innocent individuals to be treated if they were suspects:
There have been reports of “false positives,” or instances in which an innocent passenger has been subject to treatment under a no-fly or selectee list because his or her name was similar to that of another individual. In one highly publicized incident in 2005, a 4-year-old boy was nearly barred from boarding a plane to visit his grandmother.
And The Washington Post reported that Senator Ted Kennedy was inadvertently on the list for a period of time in 2004.
Because of such imprecision, there are high estimates regarding the number of individuals listed on the no-fly list who may not have any ties to a terrorist group. The Daytona Beach News-Journal quotes findings from technology site TechDirt claiming as many as “40 percent” of those on the list “are considered to have no affiliation with recognized terrorist groups.” Yet they are there because the government views them with “reasonable suspicion” or because they are, as the HuffPo put it, “unlucky.”
Or because their name is similar to the name of someone who is on the list for the right reasons.
The White House feigns frustration over the GOP’s refusal to use such imprecision as a litmus test for exercising constitutionally-protected rights.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.