I've taken the same short trip on Southwest Airlines about 100 times in the past ten years. For those that don't know, Southwest has open seating, like a bus; you need to get on early to guarantee a spot for your larger carry-on, and to avoid the less comfortable middle seats. Recently, they've allowed online check-in: you print your boarding pass at your home/office, and if you don't check luggage, you just go through security (don't get me started) and get on directly. So you can guarantee a good spot and not have to get to the airport early to check-in. I last took the trip two weeks ago. When I tried to check-in online for my trip yesterday, it wouldn't let me. After conferring with customer support, they thought it might be random security screening. Although the web page generically suggested using the automated kiosk -- which of course is no more secure than online -- I suspected it wouldn't work; when I got to the airport, I was right. So I got in line for the ticket counter. Thankfully the line was short. When I got to the counter, the agent started typing away and then said the two dreaded words: "watch list". She then handed me a 57th generation photocopy of a TSA letter that basically says Dear Traveler, you have been dinged by the watch list. (Instead of "dinged" I thought of using a different word, but I've mostly gotten that out of my system.) Apparently, there are lists of names of Bad People, and I have the misfortune to have a name that is the same as, or similar to, one of them. So I gave her my ID, and with no fanfare, she printed out my boarding pass and I was able to proceed as normal. It was group B instead of my usual A. But since I had shown up an over an hour earlier than usual because I anticipated problems, I was able to get in the front of B (by sitting on the floor for 45 minutes), which is about the same as being in the back of group A, and had no problems with my carry-on and seat. But do have to do this now every time I want a decent seat? Waste an hour of my life to get there earlier than everyone else that can check-in online? And this time, the line at the ticket counter was short and the flight was not full, as they often are. So this will only get worse, not better. There's a fairly onerous form that you can send in, along with three different notarized/certified pieces of ID to get on another list of People With Similar Names To Bad People, But Aren't That Bad. (To add insult to injury it also asks for your Social Security Number; the small print says it's optional, but if omitted, they might not be able to verify you -- with the other three pieces of ID.) Depending on who you talk to, the process takes "up to" or "at least" 45 days to complete. And even then, you might not be verified. And even if you are verified, there is no guarantee that you can check-in online. You may be stuck going to the ticket counter for the rest of your life. (It's not clear whether names ever come off the Watch List.) The irony is, even without being on that second list, all I did to get my boarding pass was show the ticket agent one piece of ID, something I already do at the security checkpoint. So how exactly is this extra layer of security supposed to work? When confronted with the pleasant agents at the ticket counter, the Bad People spontaneously admit to conspiracy and beg to be arrested? Is it the psychological pressure of dragging your luggage through the winding queue to get to the front that breaks their will? Furthermore, the airline already has my name and address, as does the federal and state governments. I've been using the same frequent flyer number for a decade. Why do I have to fill out that form? Don't they already have all that information on me already? Can't they figure out I'm me? This is bullshit, and I will be writing my congressman about it.