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The TSA’s role as journalist harasser and media ‘watchdog’

The new global tinderbox - NationofChange

Typically it’s a must to depart america to know how far this nation has advanced in the direction of turning into a police state.

I received a superb instance of the darkish place we’ve reached simply final week on a visit with my harpsichordist spouse to Vienna the place she had been contracted to carry out on Austrian State Radio a live performance of music by a leftist Jewish composer, her piano instructor in school, who settled within the U.S. after fleeing from Austria simply forward of the Nazi Anschluss that took over and included that nation into the Third Reich.

On reflection, the primary indication of an issue occurred the night time earlier than our flight, once we tried to make our seat assignments and print our boarding passes for the subsequent day’s flight. My spouse managed to simply get each her passes for the London Heathrow leg and for the flight on to the Vienna Worldwide Airport. My boarding move for the second leg of the journey got here up onscreen and was printed out okay too. However once we tried to print my boarding move for the primary leg of the journey from Philly to London, it wouldn’t come up. As an alternative there was a message on the web site saying we’d need to acquire that move on the check-in counter. (Ultimately, by making an attempt on each the American Airways and the companion British Airways websites a number of occasions, she was capable of get that boarding cross printed too, someway.)

All appeared nicely till, going by means of the TSA safety checkpoint on the Philadelphia Worldwide Airport the subsequent morning, I used to be pulled apart for what i used to be advised was a “random” particular inspection. I assumed nothing of it, although I did have a particular name to go to a full inspection the yr earlier than whereas on a brief stopover in Iceland on a flight from the U.Okay. However later, at our aircraft change at Heathrow Airport within the U.Okay., on the level within the flight switch course of the place we needed to undergo a passport and safety examine, I used to be advised my boarding move was “not acknowledged” and that I’d have to go to the airline check-in counter in an adjoining room to acquire a brand new one. This appeared just a little odd, as my spouse’s boarding cross had checked out wonderful, we had purchased our tickets along with a single card cost, and our itinerary confirmed each our names and our adjoining seat reservations for the subsequent flight. However I nonetheless naively marked the glitch as much as paperwork or to an insufficient residence printer that maybe hadn’t labored nicely sufficient to be learn by the scanner.

Foolish me.

Every week later, when it got here time to e-book our seats for the return flight residence, the American Airways web site allow us to make our seat reservations for your complete journey and to put my spouse’s boarding passes for the 2 legs of the flight residence on her cellphone. However as soon as once more I used to be solely capable of entry and print the boarding move for the primary leg between Vienna and Heathrow.  Every time we tried to get my second boarding move for the Heathrow-to-Philadelphia leg, as had occurred every week earlier earlier than our first flight, a message popped up saying we’d should go the airline ticket counter at Heathrow, present my passport, and acquire a boarding move there.

Clearly, this was rather more than a glitch. 

On the Vienna airport, we acquired the check-in clerk to print out my lacking boarding cross in addition to, for security’s sake, onerous copies  of the opposite three passes that we at that time solely had electronically displaying on our telephone.

Every little thing went easily going by way of safety on the Vienna airport from that time and we flew off to London uneventfully, however once I received to the automated boarding cross checkpoint once more at Heathrow, my spouse went via simply however when it got here my flip the turnstile gate wouldn’t open. As an alternative I received a message on the display saying my newly acquired official boarding move for Flight 67 to Philadelphia was “invalid” and instructing me to see an immigration officer. I walked over to a manned gate and after checking my boarding cross and passport the immigration officer there informed me I wanted to go to the airline’s switch desk a room away. There an agent scanned my passport, after which printed me a brand new boarding move. Earlier than handing it to me, he stamped on it in pink letters the phrases “ICE Safety.” Asking what that meant, I used to be informed, “You’d should ask Homeland Safety, sir.”

ICE, I need to clarify right here, stands for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It’s officers of the Customs and Border Safety (CBP) Service who verify your passport or passport and visa as you enter the U.S. ICE officers, in distinction, are an enforcement arm of the Division of Homeland Safety, coping with law-enforcement points and searching down immigration violators.

Keep in mind pricey reader, that wanting again, it was clear to us at this level that the preliminary flagging of my boarding cross had occurred within the US earlier than we even started our journey, however now the putting of a pink pre-made “ICE Safety” stamp on the brand new boarding cross by the individual on the airline switch service desk of Heathrow Terminal three occurred in Britain, not the U.S. It was all being dealt with by British safety and British airline personnel based mostly upon info offered to them by my very own nation’s Dept. of Homeland Safety. This made it clear past a doubt that I’m on some internationally circulated watch record produced by my very own nation’s Homeland Safety authorities – an motion that it’s equally clear was being taken on account of my work as a journalist, since I’ve by no means executed and even written something, or related to anybody that may result in suspicion that I used to be a terrorist or a menace to an airliner.

I’m a journalist. Interval. A lot for the First Modification, and  the Fourth, too if my pc and/or telephone was searched.

As we nonetheless had two hours of switch time to kill, we went to the ready lounge for Terminal 5 the place our flight was leaving from and had lunch, lastly heading off to our departure gate when the gate quantity was posted on the schedule board.

As we approached our flight’s gate we heard our names blared out on a loudspeaker that was presumably blasting everywhere in the terminal, saying we should always to report back to our gate instantly for a safety examine. As we had simply arrived there, I went over to the boarding move checker on the gate entrance and stated I used to be David LIndorff and that my spouse was with me. He introduced on his telephone to somebody that “the Lindorff’s have arrived,” after which turned to us and stated, “You must include me sir, together with your luggage and digital gear, for a particular safety verify.”

My spouse, not wanting me led off alone (a widespread follow within the US the place Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are concerned), stated, “I need to go together with him. Can I’m going with him?” The gate individual stated that may be okay and let her be a part of me.  (We had heard an account from a former scholar of my spouse’s, a pianist who lives in Spain and holds a Dutch passport. Making an attempt to enter the U.S. in Seattle on a flight from Mexico Metropolis a number of months in the past, he discovered himself barred from entry by ICE officers, locked for hours in a windowless room together with his pc and cellular phone confiscated, and with no meals, and 11 hours later was deported on a flight again to Mexico which he needed to pay for. He was by no means given an excellent rationalization for being turned away.  Understandably, my spouse  didn’t need the identical type of factor to occur to me.)

As I began down the steps as directed for my inspection forward of her, my spouse turned and requested the gate boarding cross checker,  “Is my husband getting searched as a result of there’s some sort of code on his boarding cross?” 

He responded, “You’ll have to ask Homeland Safety about that.”  He added, “You don’t have that a lot to fret about. It’s individuals of colour which have to fret, if you already know what I imply.”

Once we acquired to the underside of the  stairs we discovered a number of U.Okay. airport safety employees  ready behind two tables. At one desk, a well-dressed man with mild brown pores and skin was having his baggage searched. There have been two different individuals – a person and a lady – who have been both packing up from their searches or ready to be searched.

A British safety officer with a robust Indian accent politely requested me to put my carry-on bag on the desk between us, first asking me to zip it open for his inspection. He additionally had me take away my pc and cellphone and place them in entrance of him. He perfunctorily rifled by way of all the garments, papers, and so forth., in my small wheeled suitcase, then went over my pc and cellular phone with a particular system which, I assumed on the time was for detecting explosives, however which it later occurred to me may need been hoovering up my knowledge. Then he checked my palms, back and front, for explosives residue with a unique gadget.

Requested why I stored having issues going by means of airport safety, and why there was this particular purple safety stamp on my boarding move, he stated, “It was ordered by your nation’s Homeland Safety Workplace, sir.” 

I stated, “Yeah, I’m a journalist and our president doesn’t like journalists.”

He replied, “Sure sir, you’ve obtained loads of issues over there, I do know.”

It had turn out to be clear by that time that the blokes working for British airport safety understood they have been being required by U.S. Homeland Safety to interact in actions that have been purely harassment of individuals like myself who clearly posed no safety menace in any respect, they usually didn’t appear completely satisfied being put in that place.

I informed him, “I do know my writing is unpopular with the federal government, however I don’t see what that has to do with checking me for explosives.” He didn’t reply to that, simply saying, “Okay sir. We’re carried out. You’ll be able to go forward and board.”

I turned to the others who have been being checked and requested, “Simply out of curiosity, are any of you journalists like me?” 

None replied, however the man who had been
safety checked concurrently me later advised me, as we have been
stepping onto the aircraft, “I feel I used to be stopped as a result of I’m from
Brazil.”

I stated, ‘It could possibly be. Everyone knows how widespread Latin People are with our US ICE squads.”  It turned out that this man was seated in First Class, so he was in all probability properly off (not that cash counts for a lot to our now fairly brazenly racist and xenophobic authorities).

Keep in mind, the preliminary flagging of my boarding move occurred within the US, , and the putting of a pink pre-made stamp on the brand new boarding cross by the individual on the airline switch service desk of Heathrow Terminal three occurred in Britain, not the US, and the entire course of was all dealt with by British safety and airline personnel based mostly on info offered to them by my very own nation’s Dept. of Homeland Safety. This made it clear that I’m on some internationally circulated watch listing for my work as a journalist.

This has occurred earlier than to me, within the
interval after the Iraq Warfare was launched by the Bush/Cheney
administration. Dwelling and dealing for 5 months in early 2004 as a
Fulbright Professor at a college in Taiwan, and for a few years
thereafter once I was touring across the US by air selling my guide The Case for Impeachment (St.
Martin’s Press, 2006), every time I might verify in and get my boarding
move, the counter agent would lookup my reservation after which write a
outstanding “S” in pen and circle it earlier than handing it to me. I requested a
couple of occasions what the letter meant, and eventually one agent advised me,
“It means particular safety examine,”  and
certainly, each time I flew in these years I must be patted
down, scanned with a hand-held metallic detector, and have my carry-on bag
opened and pawed by way of by a TSA worker, or some equal individual in
the overseas nation I used to be in.

Again in November 2002, I wrote an extended article for Salon Journal concerning the US authorities’s post-9/11 “No Fly” record. In the middle of my analysis, I discovered from a supply in Homeland Safety one thing that no one else appeared to have found: that there have been truly two authorities lists. One, the existence of which had been publicly introduced, was of individuals deemed by the FBI and different intelligence businesses to be dangers to air security, i.e., potential terrorists who it was believed may attempt to bomb or hijack a aircraft, however for whom there was inadequate proof for an arrest. Individuals on that listing are merely turned away in the event that they attempt to fly.  My suspicion was that there needed to be a second record although, as a result of many individuals have been being repeatedly harassed however then allowed to fly.  These suspicions of mine have been confirmed in a second article I did for Salon that ran the next yr headlined “Grounding the Flying Nun.” There have been, I discovered, a number of hundred individuals on the primary record, some with widespread names like  Muhammed Islam – simply individuals with the misfortune of having a reputation equivalent to somebody who was a suspected terrorist. Then there was one other for much longer record, containing hundreds of names, which was of people that have been recognized to oppose the US authorities and its insurance policies – notably its overseas coverage and its wars. These individuals, like a 71-year-old pacifist nun and in addition my impeachment ebook co-author Barbara Olshansky, a lead lawyer on the authorized workforce difficult the Guantanamo jail camp, weren’t a lot barred from flying as harassed every time they tried to fly

Typically, as within the “non-flying nun’s” case, the harassment might contain being taken away to a room and questioned for therefore lengthy she’d miss her flight to hitch some protest motion, for instance on the Faculty of the Americas the place she was a common. Different occasions it was only a case of harassment.  Barbara, who at the time labored for the Middle for Constitutional Rights, stated she and her boss, the late CCR Director Michael Ratner,  each outstanding civil liberties legal professionals, joked that they needed to permit additional time for each flight they went on as a result of they have been regularly being pulled apart and searched – typically even strip searched – earlier than being allowed to board.

So, after having flown for nearly a decade with out encountering any issues at TSA inspections, I’ve been alerted by this newest expertise flying to Vienna for every week that I’m now again on that second record, and need to anticipate a regime of harassment once I journey by air. My guess is that  it was my impeachment guide and maybe an earlier ebook I wrote on the Bush/Cheney authorities’s assaults on civil liberties and its felony wars on “Terror” and on Afghanistan and Iraq, that led to my first a number of years of inclusion on the record. Now I think it’s my December article within the Nation journal exposing the Pentagon’s fraudulent accounting, or maybe one other article run on a variety of information websites exposing  the U.S. authorities’s decades-long effort, nonetheless underway, to develop the potential to launch an enormous first-strike nuclear assault on Russia that might cripple any probability of Russia’s with the ability to counter with a vital retaliatory strike, which have put me again on it.

I’ll admit that it’s a ache within the ass
to be hauled to the aspect at TSA checkpoints to be patted down after which
pressured to face round whereas some glorified transit cop in a blue shirt
paws grimly via my baggage. On the constructive aspect, a minimum of
foreknowledge of being focused forces one to get to the airport
earlier as a way to permit for the additional inspection time, with the aspect profit being not being late and having to race down some lengthy terminal hallway making an attempt to get to a gate earlier than boarding closes,

However my expertise on this newest journey can also be a reminder of how far we within the U.S. have gone down the street in the direction of turning into a police state.

The proof that my being on a Homeland Safety airport harassment listing versus a terrorist watch record, and that my inclusion on the previous is all about my being a journalist and authorities critic, and has nothing to do with being truly suspected of potential terrorism, is this easy actuality:  Although the authorities knew my spouse and I have been booked collectively for our Austria journey, no effort was made to examine her suitcase or to have her take away her footwear for inspection (although she says they did run a tool over her arms whereas she was ready for my inspection, allegedly to see if there have been traces of explosives).

Come to think about it, the a number of occasions I flew between the U.S. and Taiwan, typically with my spouse and our then 11-year-old son, and typically simply with my son, safety personnel by no means checked any carry-on baggage aside from the one bag I recognized as mine. And naturally, for all they knew I might have been misinforming them that the suitcase they have been checking was mine.

The rationale they’re harassing me and different journalists like that is apparent. As with the journalists and legal professionals we’ve discovered that the federal government is monitoring, questioning and even detaining as they attempt to cowl and to defend immigrant asylum seekers on the southern US border, they don’t seem to be afraid in any respect of what I’d do on a aircraft.

It’s what I and different journalists do for a dwelling that scares them.

Dave Lindorff

Dave Lindorff is an American investigative reporter, a columnist for CounterPunch, and a contributor to Businessweek, The Nation, Additional! and Salon.com. His work was highlighted by Venture Censored 2004, 2011 and 2012. Wikipedia

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