A 7-month-old baby on the no-fly list? Yup. But that's not the most absurd thing about it.

Babies can be terrors. But that doesn't make them terrorists. … Or does it?

In 2012, a 7-month-old baby was designated as a "known or suspected terrorist threat" by airport security and placed on the no-fly list.

That baby is now 4 years old and is one of 18 plaintiffs listed in a lawsuit filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations in April seeking damages for those who have allegedly suffered from being listed as "terrorists" without criteria or evidence.

Now, it might sound a little ridiculous to have a baby on the no-fly list. But there must be a good reason, right? This is a country that believes in due process, where even an adorable little poop monster is innocent until proven guilty! We wouldn't just brand someone a terrorist for life without some legitimate proof, WOULD WE?


Of course not.

So why how did this so-called "Baby Doe" (if that is his real name!) manage to land on the terrorist watchlist? I have a few different theories.

Photo by John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images.

1. Baby Doe is actually a terrorist, executing an insidious diaper plot against the American people.

This is the obvious, and perhaps most likely, scenario.

Photo by John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images.

2. Perhaps Baby Doe refused to narc on his fellow babies.

Government authorities have a history of approaching people with no prior criminal backgrounds or reasons for suspicion and pressuring them into acting as secret informants. And sometimes, those who don't cooperate get placed on the no-fly list.

"Who me? I don't know anything!" A likely story! Photo by Masum Ibn Musa/Wikimedia Commons.

3. Or what if Baby Doe actually works for the Department of Homeland Security?

During a recent push to prevent people on the terrorist watchlist from purchasing firearms, it was revealed that 72 DHS employees were included on the list.

Photo by Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Image.

4. Baby Doe might have posted something suspicious on Facebook.

Baby Doe once allegedly hijacked his mother's iPad and posted "fdgislgbdgkudsgsghbwenfwepfnasfiu" to her Facebook page. Was it nonsense? Or a carefully encrypted message?

Photo by Emmanuel Dudand/AFP/Getty Images.

5. Baby Doe might share a name with another "Baby Doe" on the watchlist.

It could just be a clerical error. That happened to the Robert Johnsons of the world, 12 of whom shared their experiences with "60 Minutes" after a different Robert Johnson had plotted to blow up a Hindu temple and a movie theater in Toronto.

Photo by Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images.

6. Maybe Baby Doe is actually Saddam Hussein or another Bad Person™!

"Just because a person has died doesn't necessarily mean that their identity has died," said Donna Bucella, who previously oversaw the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, in a 2006 interview with CBS News.

At the time, Hussein was listed on the no-fly list, even though he was on trial in Baghdad. The 14 alleged hijackers from 9/11 were also on the list.

Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images.

7. Even if he's not Saddam Hussein, Baby Doe could be a crucial witness in a major legal case.

Architect Rahinah Ibrahim previously took the DHS to court in order to get her name removed from the no-fly list after it had been placed there by a clerical error. When her daughter was scheduled to testify in court, DHS apparently took action to prevent her from boarding her scheduled flight.

Baby Doe and Infant X, criminals caught in the act. Photo by Dustin M. Ramsey/Wikimedia Commons.

8. Or this could all just be a glaring indicator of just how ridiculous, unfair, arbitrary, and, oh yeah, unconstitutional the no-fly list actually is.

Here's what really happened: Baby Doe is a Muslim-American child. According to The Intercept, he was boarding a flight with his mother when his passport was stamped "SSSS" to indicate the need for a Secondary Security Screening. He was patted down, searched, and subjected to chemical testing. They even analyzed his diapers. While no wrongdoing was found (and neither was common sense, apparently), his name was placed on the no-fly list, where it remains to this day.

He's not the only child to have been flagged by the Transportation Security Administration for suspected terrorist activity either.

Definitely a terrorist. Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images.

Before 9/11, there were 16 people banned from flying in the U.S. due to suspicions of terrorist activity. Today? That number is closer to 50,000.

Government agencies have even admitted that the criteria for the no-fly list is based on subjective predictive assessments rather than any kind of quantifiable evidence, and at least one U.S. District Court judge has ruled that the government's attempts to restrict people's freedom of movement is unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, the TSA has an annual operating budget of nearly $8 billion despite that a recent DHS investigation had people who managed to sneak mock weapons past airport security 95% of the time.

There's nothing wrong with taking a proactive stance against terrorism. Keeping people safe is a good thing. But if we need to encroach on the civil liberties of babies (not to mention countless others) in order to do that — well, then what are we really fighting for?

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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