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May 2, 2003
Vol. 1, No. 20




global perspective Getting on (but not off) the elusive 'No Fly' list

by Patrica Lynn Morrison, managing editor of NCR

“Unfortunately, the reality today is that if you’re a male between 18 and 35 with an Arab-sounding last name, you are likely to be detained for questioning before you board an airplane.”

Those were the words a local representative from the Department of Homeland Security told a group of about 100 Kansas City-area Muslims during a recent town hall meeting between the Muslim community and law enforcement officials. I had been invited to attend the meeting, which was billed as an opportunity to inform area Muslims about efforts in place by local police and sheriffs departments to address hate crimes, demonstrate increased police presence to protect Muslim schools and businesses, and provide information about what to do if detained or questioned.

But once the niceties of polite “show and tell” time by the law enforcement reps were over, it was time for Q&A. Participants expressed concern about what appears to be escalating racial and religious profiling, questioning and detention since the passage of the USA Patriot Act and the establishment of the Homeland Security department.

Asked one participant: What about the existence of the reported “No Fly” list that targets airline passengers considered a threat to national security because of possible links to terrorism? Amazingly, two official government spokespersons at the meeting, one from the FBI and the other from Homeland Security, seemed clueless about the “alleged” list. There is no list, said one categorically. The other wasn’t certain; he’d need to check further and report back.

If they needed proof of the list’s existence, a couple thousand American citizens will be happy to tell them all about it, from experience.

Not only is there a “No Fly” list administered by the government-run Transportation Security Administration, now under the umbrella of Homeland Security; there’s also a second “selectee” list, which requires pre-selected passengers to go through additional security measures. The nightmare of the lists, for those who’ve discovered the hard