A Medical No-Fly List?

Responding to the case of Andrew Speaker — the carrier of drug-resistant TB who flew on an intercontinental jet and potentially infected fellow passengers from all over the world, Cecilia writes:

The Atlanta lawyer who went to Europe for his wedding and honeymoon despite knowing he had drug-resistant tuberculosis and having been told not to travel is a selfish idiot. I’m sure having to postpone his wedding and honeymoon would have been a hassle, but now a lot of people might be infected, including his wife! TB is a serious illness, it’s not something minor like a cold from which people recover after a few days. People could die as a result of his actions.

It’s hard to disagree. We have an (admittedly faulty) TSA No-Fly list for potential terrorists, so a Medical No-Fly list is the next logical step in protecting ourselves. Indeed, the attacks of 9/11 may end up making it easier to institute such a No-Fly list because the political fight to keep certain individuals from flying has already been won.

As has been said before:

Rule #1: Super-empowered individuals may rule vertical scenarios, but nation-states still rule horizontal scenarios.

In other words: individuals are able to do great damage in a short amount of time. But countries do great good over long periods of time.

Osama bin Laden and Andrew Speaker are both super-empowered individuals who exploited the modern world to achive their goals, and ended creating outrage. Yet by exposing problems to solutions, they end up making the system more safe and secure than it was before.

7 thoughts on “A Medical No-Fly List?”

  1. Dan,
    Damn lawyers… and their hot wives! I think you overestimate the workings of centralized bureaucracies. It is doubtful that a medical no fly list will come into being any time soon. Furthermore, if one existed it would inevitably be abused (since there is no other competitive agency or organization to take advantage of the failures of the TSA.) A medical no fly list, or terror list, will not resolve any potential threats (in fact terror watch lists existed for decades and theoretically existed to prevent suspected individuals from entering specific nations, my understanding is that these lists were ineffectively enforced.) The ultimate solution to the problems we see in air travel, as well as in the security industry, stems from too much government intervention. Also, I do not think any type of system could have prevented an individual like Andrew Speaker from acting.


  2. Just read an article about this on yahoo (slow day.) This quote speaks to your point Dan:

    “Even though U.S. officials had put Speaker on a warning list, he caught a flight to Montreal and then drove across the U.S. border on May 24 at Champlain, N.Y. A border inspector who checked him disregarded a computer warning to stop Speaker, officials said Thursday.

    The unidentified inspector later said the infected man seemed perfectly healthy and that he thought the warning was merely “discretionary,” officials briefed on the case told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is still under investigation. The inspector has since been removed from border duty.”

    After reading the article, I am somewhat sympathetic.



  3. TDL,

    Defense-in-depth and defense-up-front are both important strategies. Take 9/11, for example. Now that we know that members of certain organizations are likely to be terrorists, it makes sense to prevent them from boarding airplanes. Our enemies are no smarter or more competent than we are, and such a head-on defense will stop some.

    However, we won't stop some, and that's why the whole system should be made more resilient. To extend the 9/11 example, locked cockpit doors would be defense-in-medium, while encouraging all passengers to bring knives on board would be true defense-in-depth.

    In the case of Andrew Speaker, a medical no-fly list that's actually enforced would be defense-up-front. Redesigning airplanes so that contagions cannot circulate would be defense-in-depth.

    Additionally.. security is the main product of the government and the one we keep her around for. Under the American constitution, there is a clear role for private and semi-public security providers (see the 2nd Amendment). However, the government has an obvious role in security, moreso than any other sector.

  4. Dan,
    I think we are in complete agreement here. I would say that I think out enemies are a lot less competent than us (us meaning the federal government), just more flexible and pretty damn lucky,


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