This controversy just gets thicker and thicker. It is a tangled web, of missteps, mistakes, miscommunication and disinformation. It is also ironic that a number of the players are extremely well educated and should know better.

I think this situation is very tragic as well. Now, given that Mr. Speaker being on a “no-fly” list, did no good at all, the CDC must now track the roughly 80 passengers and 27 crewmembers he was in contact with, not to mention the people that they have now been in contact with. Also, internationally, various countries and cities are going to have to track people the Speaker and his fiancée were in contact with.

“It’s regrettable that we weren’t able to stop that,” said Dr. Martin Cetron of the Centers for Disease Control. Regrettable??? Mr. Speaker has by some accounts a highly contagious form of TB; a rare form of medication resistant TB or in other accounts an isolated case of drug resistant TB, which may not be so contagious. Mr. Speaker was placed on a no-fly list and was instructed to seek medical care in Italy through the US Embassy. The man is quoted as saying he choose to ignore those requests and sneak back into the US, fearing he would not get proper care overseas. Which may or may not have been the case. The Italians are touting some research advances and certainly, Speaker could have begun treatment there.

Many have acknowledged flaws in the system. Flaws in the system, let’s be honest – these flaws are the size of the Grand Canyon. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY stated, “shows that something is wrong with the training and supervision of our border agents. We put all this time and effort into identifying those who shouldn’t enter our country, but what good is it if it can brushed aside by a border guard? I shudder to think that this individual could have been a terrorist.”

While it is understandable that he wanted to come to seek treatment, but in doing so he has risks the lives of nearly a 100 people. Furthermore, information is coming to light, that highlights that he may have been given misinformation at the time of his diagnosis. Some reports are stating the he was advised not to fly, but was also told that he was not contagious.

Clearly this situation should be viewed as a wake up call. If someone with TB can fly transatlantic twice, while on a “no-fly” list – the list is not worthwhile. If he can pass thru numerous security checks and immigration checks, in more than one country, the system is not working. If he had been on a terror watch list, I am not convinced he would have been stopped either.

I would further stipulate, that when US officials contacted him in Rome, they should have gone to him in person, certainly someone from the embassy could have accompanied him to an Italian hospital, to begin the treatment process. Instead Speaker felt trapped in Italy and decided to sneak home. A bit of hand-holding, might have made this situation less risky for nearly 100 people. Now there is talk that some of the delay in tracking him down, was discussions as to whether the CDC should provide a private jet, to bring him home. While I agree it is careful and prudent to weigh these types of decisions on a case by case basis and further think it is always valuable to weigh the use of tax payer dollars, seriously, this was a special case and just what is it NOW costing the CDC to track 80 airline passengers and 27 crew members and their contacts, given that they have now been exposed to drug resistant TB?

What it boils down to is attention to detail. If we as an international community and the US, as a country, really mean to make every citizen safer from diseases and terrorism, this type of situation cannot happen again. This is a total breakdown in the system. Clearly, all the technology in the world will not stop the movement of people, if that knowledge is not quickly traceable, uniformly applied and if policies remain unclear. There needs to be a clear policy, a flow chart if you will, of who to call, who to quickly share information with and what the rules are. Let’s decide now, what the policy is, write it down and then make everyone follow it.

For current information on this developing story, check out these links:

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