JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – Hawaii is a paradise for most visitors. But it was Wade Hicks, Jr.’s prison for five days.
The 34-year-old from Gulfport, Miss., was stranded in the islands this week after being told he was on the FBI’s no-fly list during a layover for a military flight from California to Japan.
The episode left Hicks scrambling to figure out how he’d get home from Hawaii without being able to fly until he was abruptly removed from the list on Thursday with no explanation. It also raised questions beyond how he landed on the list: How could someone on a list intelligence officials use to inform counterterrorism investigations successfully fly standby on an Air Force flight?
Hicks said he was traveling to visit his wife, a U.S. Navy lieutenant who’s deployed in Japan. He hitched a ride on the military flight as is common for military dependents, who are allowed to fly on scheduled routes when there’s room.
Hicks said that during his layover at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent told him he was on the no-fly list and wouldn’t be allowed on a plane.
“I said, ‘How am I supposed to get off this island and go see my wife or go home?’ And her explanation was: ‘I don’t know,'” Hicks said.
Hicks said he was shocked and thought they must have had the wrong person because he doesn’t have a criminal record and recently passed an extensive background check in Mississippi to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
But the agent said his name, Social Security number and date of birth matched the person prohibited from flying, Hicks said. He wasn’t told why and wonders whether his controversial views on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks played a role. Hicks said he disagrees with the 9/11 Commission’s conclusions about the attacks.
Phi Beta Iota: There are at least three sucking chest wounds in this situation. 1) Quality control lacking — this man’s name and social security number should never have gotten on to the list. 2) Lack of intelligence and integrity in Hawaii — someone in the airport representing the Governor should have become immediately aware of this and had the authority to immediately override a clearly insane no-fly list entry. 3) Lack of intelligence and integrity within TSA — at a minimum the senior TSA officer should have been able to call a 24/7 number and reach the Director or Deputy Director of TSA Intelligence, receiving concurrence on a local over-ride. The system is out of control. Everyone is afraid to take responsibility and use their brain. It is quite clear that TSA desperately needs someone that can be reached 24/7, hear all sides, and make a binding decision on behalf of the Secretary for Homeland Security. Right now we have just one question: is the Inspector General on the case, and will we all learn what chain of idiots put this man’s name on the no-fly list? While we’re at it, can we find out where TSA keeps its own brain, and why it was not engaged at any level? TSA needs at least one intelligence manager who can tell those in charge of the no fly list to stick in their ear, and hold them accountable for the immediate correction of obvious errors of intelligence and integrity. This case — and the lessons that can be drawn from it — are a GIFT to TSA; we hope they make the most of it.