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Grounded along with other fellow terrorists
by Doug Thompson    Capitol Hill Blue
Entered into the database on Tuesday, January 24th, 2006 @ 19:33:16 MST


Untitled Document

When my wife’s favorite aunt died last November we immediately made plans to head for St. Louis for the funeral.

We drove the 700 miles to St. Louis. I am not allowed to fly on an airplane within the United States because the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration consider me a threat to the security of the United States.

Yep. I’m on the official “no-fly” list, along with some 80,000 others Americans.

Most people don’t learn they are on the list until they get to the airport and attempt to get a boarding pass. I’m lucky. A longtime friend who works for an airline tipped me several months ago that I’m on the list. So I don't even bother trying to fly.

Those who don’t know in advance are allowed to buy an airline ticket and make the often long trek to the airport only to be told that they are not allowed to board a plane and must call an “800” number to see if they can be cleared to board the plane. Some are, some aren’t but the process takes so much time that many who are cleared end up missing their flights anyway.

As a known enemy of Uncle Sam, I’ve got a lot of co-conspirators: U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., U.S. Rep. John Lewis D-Ga., and even actor David Nelson from The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Each found themselves having to prove they are not terrorists before getting on a plane.

But my favorite partner in crime is Edward Allen of Houston, Texas. Edward is a really dangerous man…er…boy. Edward is four years old and was stopped along with his mother when they tried to board of plane over the holidays.

You guessed. Little Eddie is on the list, another threat to the peace and security of the good old US of A.

"Is this a joke?" Eddie’s mom, Sijollie Allen, told Continental Airlines agents at, of all places, Bush Intercontinental Airport. "You can tell he's not a terrorist."

But Continental’s agents weren’t laughing and told young Eddie he would have to be cleared by TSA before getting on the plane. They allowed him to fly but he and his mom went through the same process when they tried to fly back home to Houston.

“I know the government is trying to protect because of the terrorist attacks, but common sense should play a role in it,” Ms. Allen said. "I don't think he should go through the trouble of being harassed and hindered."

Senator Edward Kennedy understands what little Edward had to go through. He had to make multiple phone calls to get his name off the list. So did Congressman Lewis.

If it takes a powerful U.S. Senator that much trouble to get off the list, an ordinary person is doomed says John Soma, professor of computer and technology law at the University of Denver and executive director of its Privacy Foundation.

"We still don't have a mechanism to ensure that the government's no-fly list is accurate," Soma said. "The only way you can get you're name off it is if you're Senator Kennedy. He calls someone up and says, 'You're not going to get your money next year.' Well, what about the other 280 million Americans?"

The TSA won’t tell anyone why they are on the no-fly list. That, they claim, is “classified.” Yet the list seems to carry a lot of names of people whose only crime is being critical of the Bush administration or the Iraq war. People like Democratic senators or congressmen or James Moore, co-author of Bush’s Brain, the best-selling book about Bush and Karl Rove.

Moore found out he was on the list when he tried to board a flight a year ago. He hasn’t’ been allowed to fly since. When he tried to find out how he got on the list, he was told that information wasn’t available to him.

“I have been on the No Fly Watch List for a year,” Moore says. “I will never be told the official reason. No one ever is. You cannot sue to get the information. Nothing I have done has moved me any closer to getting off the list. There were 35,000 Americans in that database last year. According to a European government that screens hundreds of thousands of American travelers every year, the list they have been given to work from has since grown to 80,000.”

So much for the land of the free.