The No Fly list is still up and running. The FBI and the Transportation Security
Administration have a list of suspicious people they distribute to the airlines,
and the airlines check the names of their passengers against this list. The existence
of the list was first reported
here on this web site and then in the June issue of The Progressive, after
a group of peace activists were detained in Milwaukee on April 19.
On August 7, two more peace activists found themselves on the list. Rebecca
Gordon and Jan Adams were detained by San Francisco police at the airport there,
reported Alan Gathright
of The San Francisco Chronicle on September 27.
Gordon and Adams, veteran peace and justice activists in the Bay Area, work
on a newspaper called War Times (war-times.org).
"We get to the airport at 9:30 in the evening for an 11:30 flight to Boston on ATA," Gordon tells The Progressive. "As we go to the check-in counter to check in our baggage, the woman takes our IDs and types in our names, and then says, 'There's something wrong with my computer.' So she goes and gets another woman, who types our names into her computer. She, too, says, 'There's something wrong with my computer. Please step aside so we can check the other people in.' "
Gordon says she and Adams thought there might be a problem with their e-tickets. But it was more serious than that, as they found out a few minutes later when one of the airline employees told them, "You both turned up on the FBI No Fly list, and we've called the San Francisco police. They are coming over to talk to you. In the meantime, one of us has to stay with you, so please come along with your baggage," Gordon recalls.
Gordon says the woman from the airlines seemed bewildered. "We were standing there in the middle of the airport, and I'm sure she's thinking these are just garden-variety middle-aged white dykes," Gordon says.
"I can't imagine why this is happening," the airline employee said, according to Gordon.
"And I said, 'Well, I can tell you why. We work on a paper that opposes the war on terrorism.' Her eyes got kind of big, and she said, 'Oh.' "
Gordon says three uniformed members of the police then came, took their IDs, and called headquarters. They wouldn't let her even get a drink of water.
"After ten or fifteen more minutes, one of the officers told us, 'You aren't on the master list,' and they handed us back to the airline, Gordon says.
But the airline was still suspicious, and circled a big S on their boarding passes. "I assume it means search, and then a red S was put on it," Gordon adds. "In fact, at the gate we were selected for search and they did the usual search procedure, the wanding and the shoes.
Before I got on, I asked the ticket agent if this is going to happen every time. She said, 'I don't know, but I'd recommend that you get to the airport early.' "
For its part, the San Francisco police has little comment.
"We had no report of any of our officers stopping them," says Larry Ratti, a spokesperson for the police at the airport.
"Whenever anyone comes up on the No Fly list, we come out in one or two minutes and the situation is cleared up. Generally, they would make a police report if they detained people for any length of time."
Ratti says the department gets calls about suspicious people at the airport "maybe one a day, one every two days." Some of these calls come from the No Fly list, "but we don't differentiate," he says. "It's just a suspicious-type-person call."
I ask Gordon what conclusion she draws from this experience.
"This is harassment," she says. "It's to let us know that they've got their eye on us."
Adams agrees. "Nothing felt very threatening in the episode--except that
they are doing it," she says. Adams adds that she was singled out for searching
on her return trip from Boston, as well.
Copyright 2002 The Progressive