Friday, August 20, 2004

The NYTimes > National > Senator? Terrorist? A Watch List Stops Kennedy at Airport

Senator? Terrorist? A Watch List Stops Kennedy at Airport:
"Between March 1 and April 6, airline agents tried to block Mr. Kennedy from boarding airplanes on five occasions because his name resembled an alias used by a suspected terrorist who had been barred from flying on airlines in the United States, his aides and government officials said.

Instead of acknowledging the craggy-faced, silver-haired septuagenarian as the Congressional leader whose face has flashed across the nation's television sets for decades, the airline agents acted as if they had stumbled across a fanatic who might blow up an American airplane. Mr. Kennedy said they refused to give him his ticket.

'He said, 'We can't give it to you',' Mr. Kennedy said, describing an encounter with an airline agent to the rapt audience. ' 'You can't buy a ticket to go on the airline to Boston.' I said, 'Well, why not?' He said, 'We can't tell you.' '

'Tried to get on a plane back to Washington,' Mr. Kennedy continued. '' 'You can't get on the plane.' I went up to the desk and said, 'I've been getting on this plane, you know, for 42 years. Why can't I get on the plane?' ' …"

Mr. Kennedy said his situation highlighted the odyssey encountered by people whose names had mistakenly appeared on terrorist watch lists or resembled the names of suspected terrorists on such lists. In April, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the government on behalf of seven airline passengers who said they had wrongly been placed on no-fly lists or associated with names on the lists and could not find a way to clarify their identities.

In Mr. Kennedy's case, airline supervisors ultimately overruled the ticket agents in each instance and allowed him to board the plane. But it took several weeks for the Department of Homeland Security to clear the matter up altogether, the senator's aides said.

Just days after Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge called Mr. Kennedy in early April to apologize and to promise that the problems would be resolved, another airline agent tried to stop Mr. Kennedy from boarding a plane yet again. The alias used by the suspected terrorist on the watch list was Edward Kennedy, said David Smith, a spokesman for the senator.

At the hearing, Mr. Kennedy wondered how ordinary citizens could navigate the tangled bureaucracy if a senator had so much trouble. "How are they going to be able to get to be treated fairly and not have their rights abused?" he asked.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/20/national/20flight.html
con·cept: The NYTimes > National > Senator? Terrorist? A Watch List Stops Kennedy at Airport