You have heard about the Transportation Security Administration’s "no-fly" list? That is the black list of persons who are supposed threats to airline safety. If you name is like anyone the government has ever had on a terrorist-watch list, you are on the list. No, you cannot get your name off the list. Don’t even ask. In fact, it will neither be confirmed or denied that you name is even on the list. It will be obvious to you, because you will be turned away at the gate. But the government won’t say you are on the list.
Now, there is another list. Actually, I found out about it recently when talking to a friend who works for a contractor who works for TSA. I get searched every time I fly. Pulled out of the line and ordered to a chair on the sidelines or to a room, my bags are emptied. I am "wanded" over and over. My shoes are searched. I am sent on my way.
My friend said there was a code embedded in my boarding pass that alerted security to pull me out of line. She said, "It’s your writing. It’s got to be."
Lo and behold, CounterPunch writer David Lindorff broke the story in an article for Salon on the TSA list for politically incorrect people, containing thousands of names.
Kept secret until its disclosure last week by the TSA after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by San Francisco anti-war activists, it is supposedly entirely separate from the relatively well-publicized "no-fly" list, which covers about 1,000 people believed to have criminal or terrorist ties that could endanger the safety of airline passengers.
It is impossible to know for sure who might be on the list, or why. The ACLU says a list kept by security personnel at Oakland airport ran to 88 pages. More than 300 people have been subject to special questioning at San Francisco airport, and another 24 at Oakland, according to police records. In no case does it appear that a wanted criminal was apprehended.
It is not just left-wingers who feel unfairly targeted. Right-wing civil libertarians have spoken out against the secret list, and at least one conservative organization, the Eagle Forum, says its members have been interrogated by security staff.
There is something true conservatives and civil libertarians can agree on. The Fourth Amendment that is supposed to protect us against unreasonable searches and seizures has been abandoned for madness in the name of airline safety. The government is getting its revenge on citizens who criticize the Bush regime. It might get lucky and find a nail file or two that will allow them to arrest a "dissident" and charge them with a federal crime.
Though it is not yet a federal crime to criticize the government (unless you are an Arab or a Muslim), Bush plans to shut you up one way or the other. My libertarian friends have been telling me that I should rejoice when the government does "stupider and stupider" things. It means a "change is gonna come." Americans won’t stand idly by for ever, they promise. Meantime, the ACLU is suing the government to try to learn more about the list that targets political activists who challenge the government in entirely legal ways.
As for the list, I hope it grows to hundreds of thousands of names. If you’re not on it, you ought to be.
ELAINE CASSEL practices law in Virginia and the District of Columbia, teachers law and psychology, and follows the Bush regime’s dismantling of the Constitution at Civil Liberties Watch. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org