My previous post on this mystery is already pretty long, so I’m doing this update separately.
To start with, here’s the evidence to the extent I can glean it from the redacted OIG report, which, if you’ve forgotten, reported that a convicted terrorist had not only been allowed to fly, but was given TSA PreCheck status. The report says outright that the “sufficiently notorious convicted felon”:
- Is a former member of a “domestic terrorist group”;
- Was involved in “numerous felonious criminal activities”;
- Was convicted of murder and “offenses that involve explosives”;
- Served a “multiple-year sentence” for those crimes (but has obviously been released); and
- Was traveling on June 29, 2014, the date of this incident.
By the way, if anyone has a clue why the phrase is “sufficiently notorious convicted felon,” please let me know. I haven’t been able to find anything on that. Are convicted felons allowed to fly as long as they’re not very notorious?
Then there are two or three statements that require more analysis, or at least they aren’t directly helpful:
- The traveler is not on a government watch list of any kind (though that doesn’t help us much);
- The traveler is either reasonably famous or has been on TV recently, because the report says that a TSA agent recognized the traveler “based on media coverage” and “knew of the traveler’s … disqualifying criminal convictions.”
We can get a little more information from the redactions, though this involves some guessing:
- The traveler “is _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ U.S. citizen.” Could be “a known U.S. citizen,” depending on how many spaces are actually redacted.
- The traveler “was convicted and served _ years in prison.” As several people pointed out, it seems pretty clear that this redaction covers only one space, and if so then the person served less than a decade.
Several possible candidates have emerged, and a possible answer.
- Some former members of the Weather Underground are eligible. They carried out bombings but it’s not clear that anyone was killed by them. “The President’s friend Bill Ayers” (as one reader put it) was a good guess and he has been in the news recently, but the charges against him were dropped because the evidence involved illegal wiretaps, so he wasn’t convicted of anything.
- His wife Bernardine Dorhn was convicted of something, I think weapons charges, but got probation. So unlike the mystery traveler she never served jail time.
- Several former Weathermen (and -women) were convicted of murder after an armored-car robbery in 1981 in which three guards were killed. Most of them are either dead or still in prison, but Kathy Boudin was released on parole in 2003. I’m not sure whether she was convicted of explosives charges, however, or whether a TSA agent would recognize her.
- Patty Hearst is pretty famous and might have been recognizable, but unlike the mystery traveler she wasn’t convicted of murder or charges related to explosives.
- Another SLA member, Sara Jane Olson, is a better possibility. She was in hiding for many years but pleaded guilty to murder and explosives charges, and was released on parole in 2009 after serving 7 years. Would a TSA agent recognize her? Well, according to Wikipedia, her daughter was a contestant on American Idol in 2011, so maybe that explains it.
There were some other good guesses, but I will stop there because at least one news outlet is now reporting that it has “confirmed through sources” that it was in fact Sara Jane Olson (video report at the link). I guess if you have unidentified sources who will just give you what is arguably classified information, that’s a lot easier than trying to the detective work, but (as far as you know) I don’t have any of those. But KMSP in St. Paul, where Olson lives, has reported that she was the traveler and that the local airport is where this happened. So at least if we can trust “sources,” that mystery is solved.
Of course, who the convicted terrorist was is less important than the fact that a convicted terrorist was not only allowed to fly but was granted special expedited lower-risk status (for reasons that of course are redacted). Now, I doubt anyone actually thinks that Olson is still a threat, and you could argue that she’s done her time and shouldn’t now be treated like a terrorist.
But doesn’t that also apply to you?
You, who (I assume) have never been convicted or even accused of being a terrorist, and maybe even have never been convicted of a felony, and yet are required to submit to security measures that an actual convicted terrorist bomber was allowed to bypass. Maybe you are even on a watchlist—many thousands of innocent people are. She’s not! And she didn’t even have to pay for PreCheck! She got PreCheck treatment for free!
And you know what?
The ultimate point is, in other words, that as I have said many times all this hullaballoo about security is expensive nonsense. I don’t think Olson should be on a watchlist, and neither should you, without probable cause to believe you are currently a threat. Might that increase overall risk by some tiny amount? Maybe. But not enough to care about, especially in view of the costs.
Speaking of costs, TSA PreCheck currently costs $85 (nonrefundable even if you don’t get in), and TSA claims over a million people are enrolled. $85 million+ in government-sanctioned extortion payments, that’s what that is.
But you can keep your shoes on.