USA Flag

Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Transportation Security Administration

There Are No Children on the No Fly or Selectee Lists

Archived Content

Please note that older content is archived for public record. This page may contain information that is outdated and may not reflect current policy or programs.

If you have questions about policies or procedures, please contact the TSA Contact Center.

Members of the news media may contact TSA Public Affairs.

Friday, January 15, 2010

It’s inevitable that every several months or so, some cute kid gets their mug posted on a major news publication with a headline reading something like: “Does this look like a terrorist to you?” Anything involving kids or cats gets tons of mileage and everybody starts tweeting and retweeting that there’s an 8 year old on the no fly list.

There are no children on the No Fly or Selectee lists.

What happens is the child’s name is a match or similar match to an actual individual on the No Fly or Selectee Watch List.

From Airlines can and should automatically de-select any 8-year-olds out there that appear to be on a watch list. Whether you're eight or 80, the most common occurrence is name confusion and individuals are told they are on the no fly list when in fact, they are not. If you get a boarding pass, you’re not on the no fly list.

The no fly list is reserved for individuals that pose a known threat to aviation. The list is an important tool in our multi-layered approach to aviation security and is used daily to keep individuals that pose a threat to aviation off airplanes.

For more information on the list and to learn about the redress process for individuals that believe they may be on a watch list erroneously, click here .

Secure Flight will fix most of these problems in the future. Secure Flight matches passenger information provided by the airlines with data contained in government-maintained watch list records and verifies any potential matches.

Airlines are beginning to ask for name, date of birth, and gender as it appears on the government ID you plan to use when traveling. This is a part of the Secure Flight program requirements. The program will be in full effect for domestic airlines by mid-year and the rest of the airlines are scheduled to be on board by the end of 2010. Initial estimates indicate that under Secure Flight, in excess of 99 percent of passengers who provided the additional data elements will be able to use Internet check-in, kiosks and experience no delays in obtaining their boarding passes.

In the short term, individuals who have been misidentified as a match or possible match for a Watch List can work through the DHS Redress process to resolve the issue.

Secure Flight Related Posts on the TSA Blog

***Update 1/19/2010 - 4:45 PM***

First and foremost, I want to clarify that my post wasn’t directed at this or any family who have been inconvenienced in situations such as this, but more at the perpetual reporting that there are children on the No Fly list. As a father of two young children, I sympathize with any parent’s frustration at being told their child is on a terrorist watch list, and empathize with any parent going through that situation. It’s terrible.

We’ve said it before , there are no 8 year olds – or other children – on the No Fly or Selectee lists. We may not own the lists (the Terrorist Screening Center does), but we know that kids aren’t on them for sure. The ticketing agent, sky cap or other airline employees at the airport do not know who is on or not on a watch list, and they have no business telling a parent that their kid is on one because it’s simply not true. Airlines can and should automatically de-select any child that appears to be on a watch list when they see them at the check-in counter. You can also check this out for other debunked myths about watch lists.

Anyone who can’t print a boarding pass from home or at a kiosk because they are currently misidentified with someone who is actually on the list should apply for redress to fix the problem. And as I’ve said before, TSA is working to implement the Secure Flight program, which brings watch list matching back to TSA from the airlines. When people provide their date of birth and gender when booking their flight under Secure Flight, it will eliminate about 99% of misidentifications once its fully implemented.

For anybody who is new to the TSA Blog, please know that I’m a blogger and not an official TSA media spokesperson.

The way I write and address issues is different than a spokesperson would address issues with traditional media, and I certainly didn’t mean to belittle the experience of any families who have been through this.


Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team


Submitted by Anonymous on

So why can't TSO's use their discretion and not subject this kid to extra screening?

Submitted by Anonymous on

This is a new low for TSA-blog absurdity.

Submitted by Carp on

There is an even easier fix: Do away with your useless lists.

Stop playing this ridiculous game of gong around guessing what your amorphous bogeyman enemy is going to do "next time" and stop trying to guess who the next bogeyman is going to be.

By your logic, every workplace in the country should have a security checkpoint because 1 or 2 wingnuts a year decides to shoot up their workplace. (which is more than the number of terrorists who manage to do it. I would tell you the percentage but...I keep getting this pesky divide by zero error... gee why could that be)

Who is more worried about ham handed administration than terrorists, its ruined far more lives.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Yeah, no children are on the selectee list, but you'll still stop them and subject them to extra scrutiny won't you?

Confirming someone's identity DOES NOT MAKE FLYING SAFER.

TSA should stick to its mandate - weapons and explosives. You guys are suffering from serious mission creep, and it doesn't help that your leadership is a bunch of clowns who refuse to have an honest realistic dialog about security without falling back on that old "I can't talk about our secret reasons for doing things that are clearly stupid"

This blog was supposed to be a dialog and all it is is spin. There are hardly any posts except when someone criticizes the TSA in the media, and then, lo-and-behold, Bob comes back to tell us all why even though the TSA has cocked it all up again, things really aren't so bad, and there's a REALLY GOOD REASON Joe TSO violated someone's civil rights... you just can't tell us that reason 'cause it's SSI.

You know what Bob? Next time just don't bother okay? We'll play your part for you, we all know your lines by heart at this point.

Submitted by RB on

Maybe not on a list, but according to the report the kid still got special screening from TSA employees.

Why can't TSA employees see its an 8 year old and dispense with the full body pat down? They do have discretion to exercise good judgement don't they?

Submitted by Bob on

Checking a child at random: Sensible.

Checking a child every time he flies because his name matches one on a watch list that, stupidly, does not include age information: A waste of time and resources better spent on other things.

Doing so while failing to use those resources to check an adult with the same name: Criminally negligent.

The boy's father, whose namesake he is, was never checked until a few months ago while the boy received extra screening every trip for six years due to being on the "selectee" list. I presume the gentleman is a good father and a fine human being, like his child an innocent person caught up because of not particularly rare name. But at least he is an adult. If the excuse is that the boy's name matches the list, then why did the man escape extra scrutiny every time till a few months ago?

Submitted by Anonymous on

There are no 8 yr olds on the list.

There are also no terrorists on the list.

If a terrorist was on the list you could just drop a big cage over the terrorist while they are on the list and capture the terrorist.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Yeah the names are just text, and you don't let children sit on your secret list books. So?

There are names of children on the no fly or selectee lists. These children have been frisked.

Submitted by Trollkiller on

If that is the case, why do these kids get the full selectee treatment. Can't you train your TSOs so they will understand that an 8 year old is NOT on the list and does not need the full grab and grope?

Submitted by Isaac Newton on

Bob said:
There are no children on the No Fly or Selectee lists.

What happens is the child’s name is a match or similar match to an actual individual on the No Fly or Selectee Watch List.
You're playing word games here, Bob. There are no people of any age on the No Fly or Selectee lists. There are only names on the No Fly and Selectee lists. Names which may be used by people who are 2, or 8, or 16, or 35, or 85 years old. Any idiot could see that the same name may be used by a large number of people of different ages.

I'm also surprised that your watch list database is good enough to have the bad guys birthdates but not their addresses. If you knew where they were, you could just go arrest them and give them a chance to either clear their name or receive the punishment you think they deserve.

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

Bob, you write:

Airlines are beginning to ask for name, date of birth, and gender as it appears on the government ID you plan to use when traveling.

Since most eight year old children don't have government ID cards, how would Secure Flight help this child avoid been treated as a selectee or no-fly-er?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Data on how long and how effective the DHS redress process is, please.

Submitted by Groovymarlin on

It's cute how you post things like this that directly contradict the actual experiences of so many members of the flying public. I have no doubt that you believe what you post, but tell it to the family of the 8-year-old who is pulled out for special screening and aggressively patted down every time he travels. I suspect the problem is one of communication, or lack of it - between TSA, its officers around the country, the airlines, etc. When can you all get on the same page, do you think?

Submitted by Just Another U ... on

So we have to give up more of our privacy because the TSA can't comprehend common sense. Proof that the TSA can't even catch a cold but has no problem harassing everyone to make up for it.

Submitted by Tomas on

Hi, Bob, haven't posted in a while, but this one got me going a little bit.

While I understand that "There Are No Children on the No Fly or Selectee Lists," the effect of having someone else with the same name actually on the list is in many cases essentially the same as one's name being on the list.

Until the handling of name matches (or near-matches) is handled rationally and intelligently by those responsible for acting on matches, if "Joe Smith" is on a selectee list and you are a different "Joe Smith," totally unrelated to the "Joe Smith" on the list, the net effect on you will be the same as if you were the right "Joe Smith."

Saying that "Joe Smith" is not on the list, but "Joe Smith" is, is no different than saying the Odyssey wasn't actually written by Homer, but by another ancient Greek with the same name.

Ya gotta fix the system, Bob, not just wave the arms and say that no kids are on any of the lists.

So long as there is someone else with the same name actually on the list, with the current "zero thought" system that is in effect in too many places at too many levels, the effect is the same as the kid being on the list.

Take care,

Submitted by Anonymous on

Okay, I might be willing to accept that except we continue to hear of children (who just so happen to have the same name as an adult who is on the no fly list) delayed given the SSSS treatment. Bob, why can't a TSO just do the standard procedure on children who fall into this hole instead of resorting to a full body search?

Submitted by Anonymous on

There are no children on the No Fly or Selectee lists.

What happens is the child’s name is a match or similar match to an actual individual on the No Fly or Selectee Watch List.

When someone's name causes them to be flagged for additional, invasive security measures, Bob, then they are "on the list." By your logic, Osama bin Laden is not "on the No Fly or Selectee lists." The lists are made up of names. There are no corporeal entities "on the lists."

Submitted by Anonymous on

Can you comment on the New York Times report that Secure Flight doesn't support punctuation, so that many people with hyphenated or Irish names won't be allowed to fly?

Submitted by Anonymous on

The redress process is a joke and obviously hasn't fixed this kid's problem. You people should be ashamed of yourselves. You think he and his family are lying about their problems?

Submitted by Anonymous on

The whole watch list matching program wouldn't keep a single terrorist off a plane. All they have to do is create a fake boarding pass with the name that matches their ID to pass security and then use a real boarding pass with a fake name to board the plane. Do you really think it's that hard to make one of those "print-at-home" boarding passes and make it look perfectly genuine? What you need is method for ensuring each boarding pass submitted at the checkpoint matches a valid airline reservation by using a barcode reader.

By the way, would someone be willing to explain to me why the TSA document checker always scribbles something on the boarding pass. What does that do for me, TSA, or anyone else? For whatever reason, we no longer have to carry our boarding pass in hand at the metal detector, and it's not like the gate agents ever look for the scribble scatch. On several occasions, my travel plans have changed once inside security. I simpy make a new reservation and check-in using a kiosk in the secure area. I use my own name because I'm an honest person, but really I could use any name I wanted at that point and board the flight assuming I don't get tagged for the maybe 1% of the time TSA is there doing gate checks. I could also use one of those kiosks to change seat assignments, etc, and get a boarding pass that lacks the scribble scratch. So, what does the TSA marking on someone's boarding pass prove?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Sorry but you just don't get it do you? There may be a "Tom Smith" on the list - fair enough. But to then pat down and search an 2 or 4 or 6 year old Tom Smith is just plain stupid. It wouldn't take a rocket scientist to work out that the small child standing in front of you at the TSA Checkpoint is unlikely to be the "terrorist" you are looking for!

But then, the TSA is woefully short of rocket scientists...

Submitted by Michael McGraw-... on

Bob, why is it so hard for you guys to say "we know we're doing something wrong right now, and we're trying to fix it?"

There's no need to try to put a positive PR spin on this. You have a problem when the Times reports that a kid named Michael Hicks has been patted down since he was two year old, and when they report that more than 30 percent of the 82,000 requests to be removed from the selectee list filed through the Department of Homeland Security in the past 3 years are still pending.

It's not productive to repeat the facts that no one disputes -- "there are no children on our lists; but we do treat children with certain as though they were on our lists" and "if you really care you should file a formal request for us to fix it" when the real problem here is that you haven't communicated how to get off the list.

In private industry, this is "service recovery" -- acknowledging that you've messed things up for a passenger and trying to keep their repeat business by making it right ASAP.

A more productive blog post would have been "How To Make Us Stop Patting Down Your 8-Year Old Son", with an easy step-by-step set of instructions for the DHS redress process, explaining how parents can fill out the form, how long they should expect the process to take, and providing your e-mail address and work phone number so they can personally contact you with any questions about how to fix the problem for their child.

It's a simple formula: acknowledge the problem, fix it, move on. It works OK for the airlines; why not try it at the TSA?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"There are no children on the No Fly or Selectee lists.

What happens is the child’s name is a match or similar match to an actual individual on the No Fly or Selectee Watch List."

Is the person being treated like he was on the list? If so, then you're explanation is just semantics.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I am disappointed in the powers of the TSA in this regard.
1) if airlines "can and should automatically de-select" 8 year olds, why not actually make it mandatory and fine airlines that do not deselect 8 year olds?
2) I take it the frisk searching or whatever extra security these selectees go through is conducted by TSA employees. Can't they figure out that an 8 year old is too young? Or are they not allowed to think for themselves, but only follow strict procedures?

Submitted by Anonymous on


The public doesn't care about your word-smithing; they care about observable results. They don't care that it's really wannabe terrorist David Nelson that's on the secret un-American blacklist and not their 2-year old son. They do care that their kid get stopped, delayed, and harassed as a result of the DHS/TSA blacklist.

They also don't care that you call having to give up an expensive bottle of liquid cosmetics, or custom-battery pack, or leather bookmark, when there's no time to check a bag (or bag to check) and no realistic place to leave the item "voluntarily surrender." From the public's point of view, it's confiscation.

These posts are getting tiring. Repeating yourself over and over does not change the fact that innocent Americans, including toddlers, are delayed, hassled, and harassed by DHS/TSA policies. And the privacy-invading "Secure Flight" is not the answer; it might reduce false positives. But it might make it worse for the remaining false positives unlucky enough to have a DOB similar to one of the half-million people on DHS's blacklist. And it might increase false positives if, in reaction to the crotch bomber, you start looking for "near" matches across name, gender, and DOB, just like you currently look for "near matches" on names.

Submitted by Jerome Howard on

I'm tired of you parsing words.

There are no children on the No Fly or Selectee lists.

By their actions, there are plenty of screeners, airline personnel, and cops who believe there are children on the lists. It doesn't matter how you split hairs, Bob.

We know from proper authority on the famous 60 minutes episode that there are no terrorists on the lists, either.

And, there are dead 9/11 terrorists on the list who were added after they were vaporized along with four airplanes full of people and jet fuel.

So, it's simple, right? All we have to do is to spill our guts, provide all sorts of private information to you and, perhaps, we might not be strip-searched for the criminal act of buying an airline ticket.

Don't even try, Bob.

Submitted by Sandra on

The NY area radio/TV stations jumped on interviews with Mikey and his mom. A thread here is not going to undo the further damage that has been done to the TSA by those interviews.

Keep those TSA blunders coming!

Submitted by Anonymous on

So if an airline fails to deselect a passenger based on age, does that mean that TSA agents should still perform body patdowns on a traveller who is clearly 8 years old or younger?

Submitted by Abelard on
Secure Flight will fix most of these problems in the future.

In the meantime, we still get to touch your children... all in the name of safety.
Submitted by Anonymous on

If there are people such as Mikey Hicks parents who are still fighting for their child to get off the list, there is a problem.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"There are no children on the No Fly or Selectee lists."

Yet children run them... *SIGH*

Sorry, but at one time a US Senator (Ted Kennedy) was on the selectee list, and in the absence of public access to the list, it's really non-credible to say anything about the lists except that they are Orwellian. And then you wonder why the public doesn't like you or your ineffective procedures? When someone can breach security as easily as has been done in Denver and Newark y'all ain't getting the job done. Perhaps you ought to employ the method used at KCI pre-9/11 where people are checked at the gate--makes a lot more sense.

If my name is on the list then I not only have the due process right to know why, but also to get it rectified. That's my right as an American Citizen, and TSA has NO authority to block that. See also 18 USC 242, and the right to confront accusers.

Fact is, TSA is still fighting the last threat and not the next threat, and all your amazing cattle lines sans cowbells and tazers (when are THOSE coming, BTW?) are good for is annoying passengers and making a lot of money for vendors behind the checkpoints selling water for $5 a bottle because YOU wouldn't let them through security--nice scam you got going there.

Not to mention the fact that the Nigerian guy got through security overseas and not here, so measures here won't prevent that from happening again...the real threat in in the GA arena, not the concourses.

But what do I know? I've just been flying for 34 years!

Submitted by Anonymous on

My cute kid has also been on a "list". He is now a teenager, with a redress #. To complicate matters, he has an apostrophe in his last name. The Illinois DMV doesn't recognize apostrophe's, so his eventual driver's license will never match his birth certificate, or social security card. His passport is due for renewal this year, - apostrophe or no apostrophe? How will this affect secure flight?

Submitted by Najlah on

Dear Mr. Burns,

I am Mikey Hicks's mother, the little boy featured in the news media reports this past week. The one the TSA states in "not on a list".

Instead of reaching out to our family, you chose to belittle the process by stating:

"It’s inevitable that every several months or so, some cute kid gets their mug posted on a major news publication with a headline reading something like: “Does this look like a terrorist to you?” Anything involving kids or cats gets tons of mileage and everybody starts tweeting and retweeting that there’s an 8 year old on the no fly list." Would it have made a difference if we had an ugly kid compared to a "cute kid"?

It would have been far more helpful had he reached out to our family and help us formulate a solution than belittle the effort.

I am insulted and appalled that a representative from the TSA would chose to make such a juvenile and insulting statement. You could have easily left the above quote off and just shared the Redress process with everyone.

It has been made quite clear to our family from both Continental and US Airlines that our son is clearly on a TSA list and they have absolutely no power in which to remove him.

If you think it's far more helpful to belittle the process rather than just giving people the information they need, then I think the TSA has far more serious issues than any of us imagine.

I look forward to getting our son off a list he's supposedly not on.


Najlah Hicks

Submitted by Rosemary Blair-... on

I think In my own opinion maybe we should check on Children and Infants.
Don't get me wrong I love Children.
I know many people do.
I saw a clip on CNN a few years back where Children and Infants are carring out Terrorist Activities.
Not only on Airplanes but over the borders.
I would look in to this issue some more.
As CNN said "Who would suspect a baby or a Child?"

Submitted by Wfbauerle on

You people really need to get your stuff together and stop harassing people that are obviously not terrorists. You also need to start PROFILING people who appear to be of the "Religion of peace" who ACTUALLY are the people that should be on the terrorist lists. I am tired of seeing Grandma and Grandpa and Little billy and little susan getting frisked in the name of Political Correctness.. Start using common sense and logic instead of trying to pander to the people of the religion that promotes terrorism!!

The fact that you lie openly about TSA not targetting little kids and old people instead of working to fix your broken system is treasonous and you should be ashamed.. but instead you cover up your faults and try to make the people who you transgress upon look like fools.. Shame on you!!

Submitted by Wfbauerle on

Interesting that you have no comments... umm.. maybe because you are not approving any cause they are all negative!!

Submitted by Russ on

This comment has been removed by the author.

Submitted by Anonymous on

This is outrageous! You could have taken the topic at hand a bit more seriously, Mr.Burns. From the Facebook page that the parents have created regarding this error it seems they are continually harassed by the airlines when they tried to travel.

Instead of mocking their situation you could have tried to solve the problem. They have been trying to find a solution for some time and only took it public because no one was willing to do something.

Be prepared for more public appeal to happen and in the future I would suggest not mocking a family who is in an uncomfortable situation.

Submitted by DonnieLee on

Yeah, right. Blame the airlines now for your own incompetence. It's their fault...they don't pay attention to your bulletins. What a crock. Try screening your own people the clown at EWR that walked off his post, allowing an amorous boyfriend to violate a secure area. Now you know why I don't fly...because I don't have a modicum of confidence in your ability to protect me.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, it looks like TSA is up to around 1E8 RPM on this and several other issues and the public isn't buying it for a second. Get TSA fixed and you won't have people body slamming you and the agency you work for.

Submitted by Anonymous on

TSA screens children because the bad guys they are fighting believe strapping a bomb to their 8 year old and letting him blow up 15 marines is the greatest thing that child can ever do in his life.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Hey Mikey's mom: That was a great post.

My suggestion to you is not to book him any more under his real name. Use another first name, preferably a strange one so it doesn't match any other name on the list. Because you son is a minor, they can't ask for ID at the TSA checkpoint, so they can't know what his real name is.

Good luck.

Submitted by Sandra on

Excellent post, Najlah. Thank you for stating your position so eloquently.

Submitted by Joels999 on

So why is a 8 year old searched like that? what other reason could it be? if no eight year olds are on the list, which I do believe then your computer system does not take age, sex, height,etc into account when the person checks in. That in itself is a fault with TSA.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, I would like to file a formal complaint with your suprevisor regarding your continued lack of professionalism in running this blog. Please post your supervisor's name and contact information in this thread.

Submitted by Tjonesy on

I cant believe that this is a government website where some anonymous blogger can defend the TSA.
The TSA is nothing more than a bunch of Paul Blarts moved to the airport.
If there are no kids on the no fly list then why does Mikey keep getting patted down?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anything involving kids or cats gets tons of mileage...

Bob, you forgot puppies. It will be interesting to see if and how you respond to Mrs. Hicks' post.

Submitted by M on

and did your Boss Janet Napolitano tell you to make these belittling comments, and assure us how well the system is working.

If you have the time to make these blanket statements of abject denial, then you should have the time to do something about the reality of your inferior "watch lists".

You are a failure sir.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The first paragraph of this TSA post is very disrespectful to the Hicks family who is going through this harrasment! Instead of berating them, why not HELP them Get Mikey Off The List??

Submitted by Anonymous on
"the real threat in in the GA arena, not the concourses."

I couldn't disagree with this comment more. Care to back up this claim?