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
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
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
“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.