A Terrorist?  Me?

by Berit Kjos - 1997

For background information, read The Enemy Of The People?

A National Information System - Executive Order #13011

The UN Plan for Your Mental Health

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No one would tell me why my luggage had to be meticulously searched at three different airports during the first week of October, 1997. So when I read a New York Times article titled, "Airlines Criticized for Plans to Flag Suspicious Travelers" (1-2-98), I almost laughed.


"Future plans? They are already doing it," I told my husband, Andy. The FAA and Al Gore's commission on aviation safety, established in the wake of the TWA Flight 800 crash, were already established as guardians of our peace and security.

Searching for answers, I read on. "The system works by evaluating a variety of facts about a passenger and comparing them against a profile of a potential terrorist devised by the Federal Aviation Administration and security agencies. Officials decline to spell out the factors." That's true. I know it well!

On October 1, Andy had dropped me off near a United Airlines curb-side check-in booth. I handed the attendant my ticket. He examined it but refused to check my suitcase. Instead he put orange tags on both suitcase and carry-on, then showed me where to go next. Curious, I followed his directions to a lone ticket agent inside the terminal. At least I didn't have to wait in one of those long lines.

The ticket agent took the suitcase, asked some questions, and I left.

After passing through the standard x-ray machine, I was told to wait while the inspector examined every part of my carry-on luggage.

"Why are you doing that?" I asked.

"We have to because of the orange tags," answered the inspector.

"Why are they there?" I asked.

"I can't tell you," he answered.

"Why not?"

"FAA regulations," he answered.

At the gate, I repeated my questions and received the same answers.

"What about the Freedom of Information Act?" I asked. "Don't I have the right to know why you keep searching my luggage?"

"If we told terrorists what we were looking for, they would be harder to find," answered the United employee.

"You mean you suspect me of being a terrorist?" I could hardly believe what I heard.

"I'm just following the rules," she answered, obviously irritated.

Three days later, I boarded Southwest flight #1078 in Kansas City and flew to St. Louis but not before another meticulous search by airport officials. After repeating my questions, I was again told that FAA had forbidden any explanation.

"What makes you suspect that I am a terrorist?" I asked. This time there were no tell-tale orange tags. "Do you see something different on my ticket?"

"Yes," came the answer.

"What is it?"

"I can't tell you."

Puzzled, I studied the ticket myself for a while but found no clues. "Is it because I didn't get a round-trip ticket?"

"No, that has nothing to do with it."

"Could it be because someone else bought the ticket for me?"


I thanked her.

The next day I flew from St. Louis to Spokane. I came early to the United Airlines terminal well prepared for the painstaking search I had come to expect. Once again I asked "Why?"

"I can't tell you."

"But don't I have the right to know?"

"Call the FAA," she suggested.

The other agent was listening. "There was an article in the paper last week about this," she volunteered. "It listed all the things they were looking for."

"Great!" I said. "Since their secret list has become public information, just tell me what you read in the paper."

She laughed. "No I can't do that. Sorry."

I gave up.

Three days later, on my 7 a.m. flight from Spokane to Denver, no one searched my luggage. I don't know why.


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