Damien Moran got stuck at O'Hare.
And it wasn't because of all the planes that are being inspected for defects.
No, it was because of his politics.
On Sunday, April 6, Moran flew into Chicago.
He was coming to the United States to meet his brother in Virginia, to give at talk a couple days later at a public library in Colorado Springs, sponsored by Citizens for Peace in Space, and to speak at the 16th annual Space Organizing Conference in Omaha, sponsored by the Global Network Against Weapons in Space.
But he didn't get to see his brother, and he wasn't allowed to attend either event.
In fact, he never got past the guards at O'Hare.
"I was immediately detained and questioned by Homeland Security," he wrote in a press release.
Evidently, Homeland Security had information in its computers on Moran.
"When the Homeland Security agent scanned my passport something popped up on their computer screen that alerted him to call over another, more elderly agent," Moran tells The Progressive. "He asked me had I ever been arrested and I said, 'Yes, but I was acquitted 2 years ago.' I didn't say for what and they didn't ask. They asked me to stand aside. Three minutes later another agent accompanied me to the Homeland Security office. Another agent then processed my details."
Moran had, in fact, participated in an action five years ago in Ireland where protesters had entered Shannon Airport in Ireland and damaged a U.S. Navy jet. (www.warontrial.net.) Moran and four others were charged with causing criminal damage to the aircraft, but they were acquitted of the charge.
One officer Moran describes as "gung-ho" found out the details about his initial arrest and said, "Nice one, Shannon Airport." But he didn't believe Moran about the acquittal.
"We have no proof of that," he told Moran.
"He then said, 'Give me your phone,' after I asked to call my brother in Virginia and tell him I was going to miss my connecting flight."
Moran said he wanted to speak to a superior officer first, and Bock said, "I'm as senior as you're going to speak to," and, "You either give me that phone or I'm going to take it from you."
Moran said that Officer Bock got belligerent: "You're going nowhere. There is no way that you are getting into this country. Deportation is the least of your problems."
At that point, Moran said he "decided there was no point in pushing his buttons too far."
After a five hour wait, he got his phone back and was put on a one-way flight to Warsaw, Poland, where he is currently teaching and where he is involved in protests against the placement of U.S. missile defense systems.
The Transportation Security Administration and Homeland Security did not return phone calls for comment.
The Global Network Against Weapons in Space is outraged that Moran was not allowed to come to the conference it was holding.
"Damien is an incredible activist, and we were very eager to hear the story about what's going on in Poland right now," said Mary Beth Sullivan, outreach coordinator for the group. "He would have been speaking right now at this rally at Stratcom," she added on Friday afternoon from Omaha.
"Why on earth wouldn't this government of ours allow an Irish citizen to share the reality of what's going on in Poland is just appalling. What are we afraid of?"
For his part, Moran wrote: "There is no room for dissenters' perspectives in America."
Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.
© 2008 The Progressive