If you’ve been spending most of your time watching the women’s sand volleyball matches in Athens, you might have missed the latest bomb about the TSA’s terrorist watch list. It’s so funny I actually laughed aloud…

It seems that back in March, Senator Ted Kennedy was stopped FIVE different times while trying to fly on US Airways flights between Washington and Massachusetts. Why? Because “T. Kennedy” is on the secret list of Bad Guys maintained by the TSA. Before being allowed to board the plane, Senator Kennedy had to be positively identified by airport security supervisors.

He called the Department of Homeland Security to straighten out the mess, but on his return flight he was stopped again. A few weeks later Secretary Tom Ridge called him personally to apologize for the problems.

Of course, this brings up a whole host of questions…

First, why is the watch list using vague names like “T. Kennedy”? It sounds like anyone with that initial and last name (recall that Kennedy’s first name is actually Edward!) will be stopped by security. That’s a pretty broad definition of who might be a terrorist.

Second, it took three calls to the DHS and a personal apology from Ridge to clear up the mess. I’m betting that ordinary citizens can’t make calls like that, and won’t get the treatment the senator did. This brings up the age-old quandary of how you get your name removed from a secret list. According to the DHS, you can “call the ombudsman” to learn about the process of clearing your name. I’m sure it’s terribly effective.

And third, how is it that airline personnel in Washington DC and Boston MA (Kennedy’s home state, remember) didn’t recognize a guy who’s been a prominent political figure for over four decades? It makes one wonder just how closely they’re looking at the people they’re screening.

Aside from the absurd humor of the whole situation, the good that might come of it (at least in my eyes) is that Senator Kennedy is testifying in Congressional hearings about how the system is flawed:

“At the hearing, Mr. Kennedy wondered how ordinary citizens could navigate the tangled bureaucracy if a senator had so much trouble. ‘How are they going to be able to get to be treated fairly and not have their rights abused?’ he asked.”

I’m SO looking forward to my flight to St. Louis in October… the mind boggles to think about what might happen!