More

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?

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

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
True

In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 10.23.15


Getting people who don't suffer from anxiety issues to understand them is hard.

People have tried countless metaphors and methods to describe what panic and anxiety is like. But putting it into the context of a living nightmare, haunted house style, is one of the more effective ways I've ever seen it done.

Brenna Twohy delivered the riveting poetic analogy recently in Oakland, starting out by going off about some funny "Goosebumps" plots. It's lovely, funny, sweet, and relatable, and it's totally worth the short time to watch.

Keep Reading Show less
True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."