Another reason to give your kid a weird name

by on October 7, 2006 at 7:39 am in Current Affairs | Permalink

Kevin Drum reports:

Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes has somehow gotten hold of a copy of the no-fly list used by airport authorities to screen for possible terrorists. So who’s on the list?

Gary Smith, John Williams and Robert Johnson are some of those names.  Kroft talked to 12 people with the name Robert Johnson, all of whom are detained almost every time they fly.  The detentions can include strip searches and long delays in their travels.

"Well, Robert Johnson will never get off the list," says Donna Bucella, who oversaw the creation of the list and has headed up the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center since 2003.  She regrets the trouble they experience, but chalks it up to the price of security in the post-9/11 world.  "They’re going to be inconvenienced every time … because they do have the name of a person who’s a known or suspected terrorist," says Bucella.

You know, I’ll bet if there were some senator named Robert Johnson, the FBI would figure out a way to make this list a little more user-friendly. Maybe we should try to elect one.

People who expect to have evil — "I don’t want his dates Googling him" — kinds of kids will, over time, tend to name them John.  The non-criminal class will then shy away from those names all the more.  We need only a few generations for the new separating equilibrium to be established…

1 Xmas October 7, 2006 at 7:57 am

Oh crap, my dad is named Gary Smith.

He’ll never be able to fly again.

2 Chris October 7, 2006 at 8:55 am

Ted Kennedy was (presumably) on the list for quite some time and had some difficulty getting off.

3 Alex Tabarrok October 7, 2006 at 9:40 am

Well Robert Johnson did make a deal with the devil. We ought to monitor those types closely.


4 happyjuggler0 October 7, 2006 at 12:35 pm

My parents were/are very religious (although I’m not at all religious). They named my brothers and me after names in the bible.

Lots of parents do this, and I think these parents will swamp Tyler Cohen’s clever thought about naming. Besides, who actually thinks little Junior is going to be evil? Let alone decide a proper name for him will then be John?

5 bjak October 7, 2006 at 1:43 pm

I love this line:

“People who expect to have evil — “I don’t want his dates Googling him” — kinds of kids will, over time, tend to name them John. The non-criminal class will then shy away from those names all the more.”

Oh yes, all those people who have kids and also expect them to be evil and who are also rational enough to worry about their future dating prospects.

6 Jbak October 7, 2006 at 3:42 pm

Where did you get Andrew Smith from? Gary Smith is the evil terrorist.

7 Russell Nelson October 8, 2006 at 1:38 am
8 myko October 8, 2006 at 4:49 am

Forget obscure names, I share a name with the CEO of Ryan Air. Doubt I’ll ever be stopped for having a name on the no fly list…

9 Jessica October 9, 2006 at 3:58 pm

Why does it really matter what a name is? Names can not determine
who is bad and who is not.

10 Marcus October 10, 2006 at 4:32 pm

I agree that it would be a huge inconvenience to have the same name as somebody on the no-fly list, but overall, I like the idea. True the list isn’t complete or completely accurate, but if it can keep a known terrorist off my flight, I’m a fan. What bothers me is that with all our technology, there isn’t something to aid the thousands of other Robert Johnsons and Gary Smiths that aren’t terrorists. The article tells of the Secure Flight program and how over $114 million has been spent on the project and nothing tangible has come from it. This shows again how irresponsible that government is with tax money. Projects like Secure Flight cost American households thousands of dollars every year. This is money that could be better spent paying off a national debt that hits new record highs every second. I’m not saying doing away with governmental projects, I know that will never happen. The thing that needs to happen, and I know I’m looking through rose colored glasses, is accountability. Don’t just keep dumping money into a project hoping that it will eventually accomplish something. Hold somebody accountable (like congress or the president) for the operations of the project.

11 Rob October 11, 2006 at 3:48 pm

As a Robert Johnson, I can say that I have had no problem flying. However, my father, also Robert
Johnson, has been stopped several times after being told he was on the no-fly list. I guess he looks
more like a terrorist than me.

12 Anonymous October 14, 2008 at 2:08 am

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