Category Archives: Travel restrictions

The Stench of the Police State at US Airports

The Stench of the Police State at US Airports

World Socialist Web Site 

By Patrick Martin and Joe Kishore

As tens of millions of Americans travel during the busy Thanksgiving holiday weekend, they will come face to face with the new regime instituted by the federal Transportation Security Administration. More than 70 major airports have installed full-body scanners, where randomly selected passengers are compelled to undergo the electronic equivalent of a strip search. Travelers who decline that scan will be subjected instead to an extremely invasive body search that includes an open-palm patdown of the genital area.

There are already reports of gross invasions of privacy and abuse of passengers. A flight attendant was forced to show her prosthetic breast during a patdown. An 8-year-old boy was forced to remove his shirt in Salt Lake City, although children under 12 are supposedly not subject to the intensified searches. A retired special education teacher from Lansing, Michigan was humiliated and left covered with his own urine after a TSA screener broke the seal on his urostomy bag while patting him down.

Many passengers have reacted to the patdowns as a form of sexual molestation. The depth of popular hostility is demonstrated by the informal boycott of the body scanners called for Wednesday, November 24, traditionally the busiest day of the year at airports. TSA director John Pistole was so concerned about the prospective boycott that he issued an appeal Monday against it, claiming it would “tie up people who want to go home and see their loved ones.”

The new measures, introduced by the TSA November 1, constitute an assault on core constitutional rights. The random full-body scans and/or patdowns are a systematic, across-the-board violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures in which all those who are traveling are treated as potential terrorist threats.

Such methods have a logic of their own. If it is necessary to search any passenger on a plane in the most intrusive manner possible, similar justifications will be found for other forms of mass transportation—trains, buses, subways—as well as other venues where large numbers of people congregate, including malls, movie theaters, or any sizeable workplace. The result is the creation of a police-state environment for the entire society.

Pistole cited the attempt by a Nigerian with explosives in his underwear to try to bring down an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight last Christmas as a reason for the new search regime. Such justifications are a fraud. The entire “war on terror,” from the initial 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 to the most recent scare over cargo shipments from Yemen, is characterized by the unexplained and highly suspicious role of the American security apparatus, which has repeatedly acted in a fashion that suggests that it is promoting and facilitating terrorist provocations—which are then utilized to promote the military and foreign policy goals of American imperialism—rather than preventing them.

For example, the “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was allowed to board the flight despite the efforts of his father, a prominent Nigerian businessman, to tip off US authorities about his son’s potential connections to Islamic terrorists. The father visited the US embassy in Abuja, and a report was filed with the Department of State in Washington. This supposedly did not trigger an alert, despite the fact that US intelligence had uncovered reports of a Yemen-based terrorist plot using a Nigerian whose name might be “Umar Farouk.” The results of the affair have been twofold: a major increase in US military/intelligence operations in Yemen, and now the intensified domestic security screening at US airports.

None of the increasingly absurd and outrageous procedures instituted at airports have anything to do with making the population more “secure.” Rather, they are part of a massive increase in the power of the security apparatus, the framework of a police state in the US. From 9/11 on, first under Bush, now under Obama, the “war on terror” has been used as a catch-all justification for expanding domestic spying; instituting indefinite detention without charges; justifying executive assassination of anyone around the world, including US citizens; and employing torture. The climate of fear and intimidation cultivated at the borders and at the airports is part of this.

The response of the Obama administration to widespread complaints about the new procedures has been to act as though the White House was powerless to stop an agency whose director Obama himself appointed only a few months ago. Obama declared, “TSA in consultation with counterterrorism experts have indicated to me that the procedures that they have been putting in place are the only ones right now that they consider to be effective against the kind of threat that we saw in the Christmas Day bombing.”

Congressional Republicans, for their part, sought to exploit the popular hostility to the patdown searches by advocating extensive racial profiling at airports as an alternative. It was “political correctness” to put grandmothers, toddlers and the disabled through intensive screening, they argued, suggesting that Israeli-style methods of singling out target groups—young, non-white men, for example—should be employed instead. This avowedly racist approach leads to the same result as Obama’s: giving a green light to the unaccountable bureaucrats of TSA.

Both big business parties, Democrats and Republicans, are committed to expanding the power of the capitalist state, in its most overtly repressive form, the “armed bodies of men,” in Marxist terms. Ten years of bloody warfare since 9/11 have brought about an increasing brutalization of American society itself, as the American government now brings home the methods of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, violence and humiliation, for use against the American population.

These police-state methods are not directed against “terrorism,” but at any opposition to the increasingly unpopular policies of the financial aristocracy. The more farsighted sections of the ruling class understand very well that their policies of impoverishing the working class and ripping up social programs will lead to mass opposition, for which they have no answer but mass repression.

Moreover, police-state measures at home are a critical component of the preparation for new wars and imperialist adventures abroad. Each “terror scare” is tied to the promotion of the interests of American imperialism in key regions of the world, generally those that sit on top of vast quantities of oil and gas or straddle critical shipping routes.

All this is not to say that there is no danger of terrorist incidents. However, the principal source of this danger is the American government itself, which through its actions helps foment opposition and deep anger in the most far-reaching areas of the world. Despite the incessant panic mongering over terrorism, no one in the political establishment or media suggests the most immediate step necessary to dealing with the danger—putting an end to the bloody US wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.

In the final analysis, the increasing reliance of the US ruling elite on police-state methods, abroad and at home, demonstrates the impossibility of combining imperialism and democracy. American society is being ripped apart by profound social contradictions. Never has the gulf been so wide between the enormous wealth of the privileged elite, and increasing misery for the broad masses of the population.

The defense of democratic rights is inseparably bound up with the struggle to mobilize working people to defend their social rights, to jobs, decent living standards and public services. This requires the building of a mass revolutionary party of the working class, based on a socialist and internationalist program.

The making of a police state: Report by Sibel Edmonds

SIBEL EDMONDS: THE MAKINGS OF A POLICE STATE

November 14, 2010 posted by Sibel Edmonds  

Little Steps Towards the Big Leap?

Time To Test our Might & Will

By Sibel Edmonds STAFF WRITER

The movement against TSA’s systematic degradation of our nation seems to be gaining a bit of momentum; long overdue. A few lawmakers are making some noise. Let’s hope it is not for show only.

Pilots and related organizations have been making a little headway. And we have more than a few citizens coming up with and organizing actionable plans and ideas. I hope none of this ends up settling for ‘little bones.’ By that I mean quasi cosmetic changes like: giving our CNN’s Fitzpatrick what she is asking for – a heads up and notice signs for coming violations at check points, or installing separate screening detectors for the pilots and flight attendants, or having the screener police touch and violate you using three fingers instead of their entire palm. We seem to have momentum.

I believe with solidarity and persistence, refusing to give up or give in to a few ‘bones’ we will succeed. Please watch out for ‘highly coincidental’ terror alerts that may start popping up. OK? After ten years of those interestingly timed and never-sourced possible terror alerts we should be wise enough to recognize our government’s ‘cry wolf’ practices. Also, get ready for a handful of questionable entities who try to blend in with the movement and engage in repulsive (highly offensive) actions to cause backlash for our movement. Our government highly depends on ‘this type’ and of course, our mainstream media loves to showcase them. I am just saying.

I’ve been going through hundreds of e-mails and comments on my previous post. First, I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts and suggestions both publicly in various forums and privately through your direct e-mails; your feedback gives me a sense of solidarity and revives my long-dimming hopes. Next, I  am going to tell you a bit about myself and what I am prepared to do, however insignificant or little it may seem to some. So many of us either don’t do anything or say anything publicly because we as a nation have been long reduced to seeing ourselves and acting as insignificant and powerless subjects of those who govern. We are afraid of being ridiculed, or being rejected as feeble. That’s not the case here at Boiling Frogs Post, and I hope you’ll get that sense and keep your ideas and suggestions coming. You see, I am doing it despite my own set of reservations, and regardless of the ridicule I sometimes endure from the ‘elite academics & talk-and-write only mighty experts.’

Those of you who’ve been members here know that I usually don’t talk about, share, personal information. This is aslight exception, and you’ll see why:…

The Discretion Factor & TSA Black Hole  (FROM JULY, 2009)  www.boilingfrogspost.com

Around 1:00 p.m. on March 9, 2009 I stood in front of the US Air ticket counter in Ft Myers, Florida, and sighed with relief. I had just checked in two suitcases and had an hour and fifteen minutes before boarding my plane to Washington, DC. I was relieved because it is no simple task to make it this far with a teething seven month old baby, two suitcases, a carry on bag, and a diaper bag. However, I was counting my chickens too early.

I joined a fairly long line at the entrance of the TSA security screening station, and did a quick inventory of preparations needed to make it to the other side: My infant girl was securely nestled against my chest inside her baby carrier; I had no liquids in the diaper bag or elsewhere, and that included the bottled water I would need to fix her formula later while on the plane (I had enough time to purchase the water on the other side); I was wearing fairly easy to remove trainers, knowing the difficulty of removing shoes while carrying my infant and holding my boarding passes and drivers license…Basically, based on the Transportation Security Agency’s (TSA) posted rules, I was all set, or so I thought.

I bent over, removed my trainers and placed them on the screening belt. By this time I could sense my infant daughter’s tension from the way she was holding on to me. I couldn’t blame her; with the suffocating congestion of hassled and rushed people in the line closing in on her, the sound of screaming TSA officers reciting the rules at the security check point’s entrance ‘make sure you remove your shoes…’ ‘place all your liquid containers in clear plastic bags…,’ and with her mommy almost squashing her to bend over and remove my shoes, how could I blame her”!

As I approached the metal detector portal I looked ahead and sighed with relief one more time. A few more seconds, and I’d be there; among ‘the checked and let through’ on the other side; one of the lucky crowd who’d made it through.

My daughter and I went through the detector smoothly and silently – the darn thing didn’t blow it’s darn ear-scratching siren. However, waiting on the other side with hands on her plump hips was a badge wearing TSA officer. She pointed at me and sternly yelled, ‘Ma’am, go back again! Remove that baby carrier, put it on the belt, and come through the detector again.’

Confused, I looked at her and asked, ‘But why? I didn’t set off the detector! There are no metal pieces on this carrier, and as you see, it is fabric with no pockets or bags attached…’

The Badge-Woman yelled even louder, ‘Ma’am, you are holding up the line. Just go back and do as I say! We don’t allow wearable baby carriers through the detectors…’

I knew that was not true. I had traveled with my child several times and had gone through screening stations at several airports while carrying my child in the carrier attached in the front, same as here. But I didn’t want to hold up the lines and add hassle to the already hassled crowd waiting in line right behind me. Those of you who are parents and have traveled with infants don’t need me to tell you, but for those of you who have not experienced it let me put it this way, ‘it’s no easy task’! I tucked the boarding pass and my license under my chin. Next, I unbuckled the side-fasteners of the carrier, while watching carefully where I was stepping, because the tiled floor was smeared with some syrupy soda making it slippery. Then, I wiggled my daughter out if the carrier, tucked her under my left arm, while unfastening the rest of the carrier from my waist and shoulder…By this time my baby was wailing; from top of her lungs.

I passed through the detector again with the wailing baby tucked under my arm. Now I had to retrieve my shoes, my hand bag, my carryon, the baby carrier, the diaper bag, which were all piled up at the other end of the security screening belt. Have you ever done this while holding a baby? I don’t think I have to tell you what hell that is…

After I gathered my stuff, with sweat pouring from every pore, I turned around and made my way towards the badge-woman. I stopped right in front of her, looked her in the eye, and said,‘I would like to know why you put me through that when I was cleared first time through. I have gone through five airport security points with my child in a carrier, and no one ever asked me to remove the carrier. I believe TSA rules are supposed to be uniform.’

She snapped back ‘Move on. I don’t have to answer your question.’

I tried very hard to remain calm, and responded, ‘Yes you do. You need to provide me with a response; with an answer…’ She took out her hand-held radio and called her supervisor, ‘We have a big problem here. Someone is disrupting our procedure…’

In less than two minutes two female supervisors clad in suits showed up. The older one with hair glued in the air with two cans of hairspray and make-up two inches thick listened as I repeated my question, then she responded,

‘I am afraid we cannot provide you with an answer. We can’t share our security criteria with you. They are all classified.’

I almost gasped, ‘Why?’

She responded: ‘Because to announce our criteria, our rules, would tip off the terrorists.’

I countered that: ‘You have a list of rules at the check point entrance regarding liquid, shoes, lighters and matches…There is no section there referring to baby carriers. And, I have been through several airports, and none had any issue with the carriers. Are you saying there is a rule on carriers but it is considered secret and classified?’

She blinked several times with eyelashes bending downward from the weight of gunky mascara mud clumped on top of them. Next, with a voice raised about two notches higher she responded ‘Okay. It is not in the actual classified rules. We do things based on ‘Discretion.’ This is one of those. We have discretion.’

I asked again, ‘Okay. I would like to see the guidelines governing this discretion. That way I’ll know how to prepare for security in the future, as I did with your rules on shoes, water, liquid baby formula…’

She snapped back, ‘we have unlimited discretion. There are no rules. And we don’t have to answer your questions…’

I didn’t move, and I repeated my question, and added ‘Unlimited discretion? You mean you can also take us in and do a cavity search based on this discretion? This sounds like unlimited authority, and as a citizen, as a taxpayer, I have the right to know…’

At this point she took out her radio and called the airport police while I stood there looking and listening in disbelief. When two uniformed local airport police showed up, the TSA supervisor told them, ‘This lady insists on seeing our internal rules and classified procedures. I believe she poses a threat at this point and would like to have you either arrest her or keep her under observation until we decide to clear her for travel…’

That’s right. As a petite 5’4, 105 pound mother with an infant I was either being placed under arrest or observation as a security threat because I dared to question my rights and my government’s rules on security screening of its citizens.

The police officer, a gentlemanly young man, looked disgusted with the TSA supervisor. He turned to me and said,

‘Ma’am, why don’t you stop asking these questions and just proceed to your gate? We don’t want to be forced to act on this.’

I calmly responded, ‘Officer, I will proceed as soon as I am provided with an answer. If this is a cause for arrest now, and if you think you can back it up with probable cause, then please go ahead. You know and I know that this is not lawful.’

At the end of the security screening belt, as these events were unfolding, people were rushing past us towards their gates. Most of them were avoiding eye contact; maybe it was too much for them to actual see the reality and the state of their mobility on display before them. Some were shooting quick wondering glances. A very few brave ones actually slowed down or paused to whisper things like, ‘This is disgusting,’ or ‘they have no right to treat people like this,’ or, ‘this is a shame,’…

The TSA supervisor, seeing that her bluff did not have the desired effect and a bit nervously, changed her tune,

‘All we are doing is protecting you and everyone else from the terrorists. These procedures, these measures, are all for your own good; for your own safety.’

I repeated myself one more time, ‘And how do baby carriers pose a threat? How about the endangerment you caused my infant by having me walk across the slippery floor while holding her, handling my belongings…?’

She gave her best line of reasoning, ‘If I remember correctly some one, in some country, tried to hide explosives in a baby toy, or a baby stroller, or something like that…You know how the terrorists used airplanes and lack of airport security to blow up and kill thousands of our people…’

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at this lame and irrational excuse, ‘Okay, in Bali and in India terrorists blew up resorts and hotels, and people got injured and killed. Does this mean we now have to stack up barriers in front of our hotels and resorts, and have government security agents march in front of them? The terrorists hit some fast food chain joint in Turkey; does this mean we now have to have metal detectors and guards in front of our restaurants? With this line of reasoning where will we stop? Will we ever stop?’

By this time I had already missed my plane. Disgustedly I walked towards the US Air counter to get my refund, go rent a car, and drive 20 hours back home. As I walked away with the two police officers accompanying me, the young male officer said sympathetically,‘Ma’am, I am so sorry for that. Even we can’t argue with these TSA guys. Now they are carrying badges and guns, and we see all sorts of abuses, dumb calls, but they are high with a sense of power…’

I don’t know how but I managed to smile, and said ‘I know. My organization has 50 or so DHS/TSA whistleblowers, and I’ve heard stories worse than this…They are able to assert these abusive powers and practices because most people, the majority, just like you, would rather back off and put up with their abuse of power…Does this sound American to you?’

Before I turned the corner I stopped, turned around, and looked at the line moving forward at the security check point. The imagery was almost symbolic. People stopping by the security belt; bending over humbly, as if before Roman Gods or Pharos, to remove their shoes. Then, like a herd of sheep, while holding up their IDs and boarding passes, they took little steps towards the detectors while looking at the other side, hoping soon they’d be ‘cleared’ and ‘allowed’ to join the others who’d ‘made’ it.

# # # #

The No Fly List, also called the terrorist watch list, is a secret list created and maintained by the US government of people who are not permitted to board a plane for travel in or out of the country. The list includes at least 1 million names as of now, up 32% since 2007 as reported by USA Today in March 2009. On September 11, 2001, the FBI’s ‘no transport’ list had the names of 16 people were considered to present a specific known or suspected threat to aviation.

Let’s look at TSA’s definition of No Fly and Selectee list from their own website:

  • What are the watch lists? Historically, nine government agencies maintained watch lists with names of known or suspected terrorists and criminals. Two of these lists, the “No Fly” and “Selectee” lists were maintained by TSA. The “No Fly” list is a list of individuals who are prohibited from boarding an aircraft. The “Selectee” list is a list of individuals who must undergo additional security screening before being permitted to board an aircraft. After 9/11 the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) was created through a Presidential Directive to be administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice, in cooperation with the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, State, and Treasury, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency. The purpose for the TSC is to consolidate terrorism based watch lists in one central database, the Terrorist Screening Center Database (TSDB), and make that data available for use in screening. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies nominate individuals to be put on the watch list based on established criteria, with the list maintained by the TSC. TSA’s “No-Fly” and “Selectee” lists are subsets of the TSDB and are maintained by the TSC.

According to a report issued by the General Accounting Office, the “no fly” list is just one of 12 terrorist and criminal watch lists maintained by the federal government.

In the sub header of this piece I refer to this list and the entire system as a ‘black hole’ because the list is sort of a secret, how you end up there is sort of a secret, their criteria for the list is sort of a secret, and if or how an innocent citizen can get off this list also happens to be a secret. Pay attention to the vague, ambigious definition by the TSA cited above. Go to and comb through their entire site and you’ll still come up empty handed as to how or why you may end up on their list, or how you can find out about it, or how you can get yourself off of their list.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) issued a report after it obtained limited information on the No Fly and Selectee lists through FOIA:

“Since the TSA took over, the watch list “has expanded almost daily as Intelligence Community agencies and the Office of Homeland Security continue to request the addition of individuals to the No-Fly and Selectee lists.” (TSA Watchlists memo) The names are approved for inclusion on the basis of a secret criteria. The Watchlists memo notes that “all individuals have been added or removed … based on the request of and information provided, almost exclusively by [redacted].”

There are two primary principles that guide the placement on the lists, but these principles have been withheld. The documents do not show whether there is a formal approval process where an independent third party entity is charged with verifying that the names are selected appropriately and that the information is accurate.”

As one of our readers, Jean Carbonneau, brought to our attention, one of the main reasons people don’t react as they should to such a Kafkaesque police system is that they don’t consider themselves ‘affected.’ They may get a bit grumpy at those long lines in the airports, or the patting and probing, but many consider it just ‘necessary added security,’ move on, and get used to it. When these people, the majority, read about these lists they brush it off as tools directed towards real criminals and terrorists suspects; you know, a tool to protect us against those darn hairy dark-skin foreigners who spend their lives planning to blow us up… They need to see and hear and read about tens if not hundreds of thousands of good ole Americans with spotless records who for one reason or another have ended up in the DHS’ black hole, and most likely due to some ‘discretion.’ Sure, the mainstream media has covered it a tiny bit; certainly not enough; at least not as much as they’ve been covering and exagerating the threats of vague terrorists and boogiemen.

If you come across those, which I am sure you do every single day, have them read the story of a Former US Diplomat John Graham, who actually received an award by the first President Bush for his NGO work, and who somehow ended up in the black hole. Let them read Graham’s own words:

“I’m being accused of a serious–even treasonous–criminal intent by a faceless bureaucracy, with no chance (that I can find) to refute any errors or false charges. (…) Whether it’s a mistake or whether somebody with the power to hassle me really thinks I am a threat, the stark absence of due process is unsettling. The worst of it is that being put on a list of America’s enemies seems to be permanent. The TSA form states: “the TSA clearance process will not remove a name from the Watch Lists. Instead this process distinguishes passengers from persons who are in fact on the Watch Lists by placing their names and identifying information in a cleared portion of the Lists” (which may or may not, the form continues, reduce the airport hassles).

In protecting ourselves, we can’t allow our leaders to continue to create a climate of fear and mistrust, to destroy our civil liberties and, in so doing, to change who we are as a nation. What a victory that would be for our enemies! And what a betrayal of real patriots, and to so many in the wider world who still remember this country as a source of inspiration and hope.”

…or have them check out many stories of US veterans, nuns, doctors, starred generals, librarians…who found themselves in this nightmare of being listed by their government, and learned that there isn’t much they can do to clear themselves:

Bill McDonald, 60, a retired Air Force colonel has a chest full of ribbons and enough frustration with the TSA to fill a bucket.

“With my two tours in Vietnam and active service in support of Desert Storm I find myself a terrorist suspect”,” McDonald says. “Seemingly not even my Top Secret, nuclear and satellite related clearances plus over 26 and half years of service mean much,” he says. “You can surely imagine my disgust at being identified on a terror watch list.”

Although McDonald has flown several times since 9/11, it wasn’t until just last year that he started having problems checking in. McDonald and his wife were fond of online check-in procedures but were rejected and told to report to the ticket counter. “That was our first clue something was wrong.”

When a ticket agent told McDonald he was on the watch list, he was stunned. He took out his military I.D. card that he always carries, but it was of little help. He missed that flight because of the added security.

“I was just kind of flabbergasted that I had to play this game, but decided that I wasn’t going to be reactive,” he said.

He has pulled together all the needed information to apply for clearance, but says he’s hesitating submitting the forms because of all the information they require.

“Somehow, hearing about the wrongful use of info by the TSA does not give me a comfort zone,” McDonald said. “I say this despite the fact that I know I am all over the data bases in the government.”

…or have them watch the following video of the TSA detention, harassment, and abuse of a Ron Paul organization official which was caught on tape at a St. Louis airport:

VIDEO REMOVED BY YOU TUBE

…tell these people that they or their family members or their friends can easily end up on a secret list for secret reasons by secret persons working behind the walls of their government secret’s agencies. And, that there ain’t a darn thing they can do, or anywhere or any person to go to, even if there were, they wouldn’t know about it, since that too would be secret.

Washington seeks power to ban air travellers – even if they are only flying over the U.S.

Washington seeks power to ban air travellers – even if they are only flying over the U.S.

Mail on Sunday (UK), 8th March 2008
http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=528766&in_page_id=1770

Demand: Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff wants checks on all UK passengers flying to the Americas or the Caribbean

The US government is demanding the right to ban British air passengers from flying over America en route to other countries ? even when the flights will not land in the United States.

Under anti-terrorism measures due to come into force within two years, the US authorities insist they need to do background checks on all UK air passengers travelling to Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico and South America.

Direct flights to popular holiday destinations such as the Bahamas, Barbados, Toronto and Mexico City would all be covered by stringent US security checks examining people's passport details, travel plans and even how they paid for their ticket.

US security officials insist the checks must be completed 72 hours before departure or the flight will be banned from US airspace.

Anyone identified as having "suspicious indicators associated with travel behaviour" by US security would be prevented from boarding their flight.

Almost every flight leaving Britain and Europe for North and South America will be affected.

For safety reasons, transatlantic flights usually take the shortest route across the Atlantic and then fly over or close to the US coast so they can divert to an airfield quickly in an emergency.

The far-reaching new demands emerged last month during a private meeting between US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, but have not been revealed until now.

Mr Chertoff confirmed British passengers would be checked against US anti-terror and so-called "no-fly" lists.

Miss Smith said: “We agree that it is possible to maintain that ability for people to travel whilst at the same time building on the close relationship we have in sharing information, in ensuring that we're working together to develop the strongest security around travel between our countries.”

Civil liberties campaigners fear the Secure Flight programme could be used to gather information about anyone flying, not just those with links to terrorism.

The Home Office insisted: “No decisions have been made.”

Bush restricting travel rights of over 100,000 citizens

BUSH RESTRICTING TRAVEL RIGHTS OF OVER 100,000 U.S. CITIZENS

Evidence

By Sherwood Ross

The freedom to travel of more than 100,000 Americans placed on “watch” and “no fly? lists is being restricted by the Bush-Cheney regime.

Citizens who have done no more than criticize the president are being banned from airline flights, harassed at airports”, strip searched, roughed up and even imprisoned, feminist author and political activist Naomi Wolf reports in her new book, “The End of America.”(Chelsea Green Publishing)

“Making it more difficult for people out of favor with the state to travel back and forth across borders is a classic part of the fascist playbook,” Wolf says. She noticed starting in 2002 that “almost every time I sought to board a domestic airline flight, I was called aside by the Transportation Security Administration(TSA) and given a more thorough search.”

During one preboarding search, a TSA agent told her “You?re on the list” and Wolf learned it is not a list of suspected terrorists but of journalists, academics, activists, and politicians “who have criticized the White House.”

Some of this hassling has made headlines, such as when Senator Edward Kennedy was detained five times in East Coast airports in March, 2004, suggesting no person, however prominent, is safe from Bush nastiness. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia has also been mistreated. And it can be nasty. Robert Johnson, an American citizen, described the “humiliation factor? he endured:

“I had to take off my pants. I had to take off my sneakers, then I had to take off my socks. I was treated like a criminal,” Wolf quotes him as saying. And it gets worse than that. Nicolas Maduro, Venezuel foreign minister, said he was detained at Kennedy airport by officers who “threatened and shoved? him. And that was mild. Maher Arar, a Canadian software consultant was detained at Kennedy and “rendered? to Syria where he was imprisoned for more than a year by goons that beat him with a heavy metal cable.

After the Canadian furor over Arar’s illegal kidnapping and torture, he was eventually released as he had zero ties to terrorists. Yet the Bush gang refused to concede error; refused to provide documents or witnesses to Canadian investigators; and claimed last January it had “secret information” that justified keeping Arar on the watch list, Wolf noted.

Again, Chaplain James Yee, an American citizen born in New Jersey who had converted to Islam and had the Christian compassion to call for better treatment of Guantanamo prisoners, was nabbed in Sept., 2003 on suspicion of “espionage and possibly treason” and flung into the Naval brig at Charleston, S.C., where he was manacled, put in solitary for 76 days, forbidden mail and family visits, demonized in the media and warned he could face execution. Wolf writes, “Within six months, the U.S. government had dropped all criminal charges against Yee,” claiming it did so to avoid making sensitive evidence public, not because the chaplain was innocent.

Over and again, the Bush gang claims it can prove terrible crimes about suspects but, like the men imprisoned at Guantanamo, it repeatedly turns out to have “conspiracy? zilch in its briefcase rather than hard proof of actual misdeeds. Yet it goes on punishing hundreds of suspects with solitary confinement and worse without ever bringing them to trial. Globally, the number of such detainees is in the tens of thousands. Stalin would have understood.
Apparently, favorite targets of the Bush tyranny are peace activists like Jan Adams and Rebecca Gordon, detained at the San Francisco airport; a political leader such as Nancy Oden, of the Green Party, prevented from flying from Maine to Chicago; King Downing and David Fathi, both of the American Civil Liberties Union and both detained (proves ACLU?s case about Bush, eh what?); and Constitutional scholar Walter F. Murphy, of Princeton University, who had attacked the illegalities of the Bush regime. He was put on notice his luggage would be ransacked.

“When you are physically detained by armed agents because of something you said or wrote, it has an impact,” Wolf writes. “?you get it right away that the state is tracking your journeys, can redirect you physically, and can have armed men and women, who may or may not answer your questions, search and release you.”

Wolf traces the “watch list? back to a 2003 directive from Bush to his intelligence agencies to identify people “thought to have terrorist intentions or contacts.” After the list was given to the airlines, CBS-TV?s 60 Minutes got a copy. The list was 540 pages long and there were 75,000 names on it of people to be taken aside for extra screening.

The more stringent “no fly? list has 45,000 names on it, Wolf reports. Prior to 9/11, the list had just 16 names, but 44,984 suspects were quickly manufactured to justify the creation of the vast airport security apparatus at God knows what cost to American taxpayers.

One ludicrous “no fly? story concerns John Graham, president of the nonprofit Giraffe Heroes Project, an organization that honors people who stick their necks out. A former government careerist who served in Viet Nam, Graham is an inspired speaker that receives standing ovations from groups such as West Point cadets, yet is kept from flying from his Langley, Wash., base by the National Security Agency. NSA won’t tell him why, either. Maybe they have “secret? information on him, too.

Author Wolf notes that dictatorships from Hitler’s Germany to Pinochet’s Chile have employed arbitrary arrests to harass critics. And Bush’s airport detention policies are more of the same. As Wolf writes, “being free means that you can’t be detained arbitrarily.” Somebody ring the fire bell!
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(Sherwood Ross is a Miami, FL-based writer who has worked in the civil rights movement, and for major dailies and wire services. Reach him at sherwoodr1@yahoo.com)