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Fri, Apr 14, 2006

Big Brother Is Watching WHO??

TSA "Terrorist" Turns Out To Be A Homeward-Bound Marine

by ANN Senior Correspondent Kevin R.C. "Hognose" O'Brien

The Transportation Security Administration bagged a terrorist in Los Angeles International Airport Tuesday, or so they thought. Daniel Brown's name came up on their no-fly watchlist, so they dragged him into interrogation and grilled him, despite the protestations of Brown and his fellow travelers, who swore they could vouch for him.

The others in Brown's party went on their Northwest Airlines flight to Minneapolis-St. Paul, where they waited on a bus at the airport. You see, the detained man was Staff Sergeant Daniel Brown, USMC Reserve, and he was traveling with the other members of his Marine Reserve Military Police unit, which was heading home to Minnesota from eight months of combat in Iraq. The Marines were in full uniform and all, including Brown, had travel orders and military identification cards.

After attempts to stonewall under claims of "security," TSA spokesmen finally admitted that Staff Sergeant Daniel Brown was placed on the no-fly list, and ultimately detained, because they had detected gunpowder on his footgear -- not on this flight, but on a prior flight, which earned Brown a permanent place on the TSA's mysterious terrorist lists.

The footgear that had been exposed to gunpowder? Brown's combat boots, and the occasion of that flight was after his return from his first combat tour in Iraq. Gee... a combat Marine in Al-Anbar Province being exposed to gunpowder.

Exposure to gunpowder isn't something the TSA knows a lot about. Hey, who are you gonna believe, this here watchlist or your lyin' eyes?

Ultimately, the TSA screeners figured out that Brown really was a Marine, and no threat to his fellow passengers, and let him board a later flight. When he deplaned at MSP, his unit's bus was waiting -- his fellow Marines in it.

Marine 1st Sgt. Drew Benson explained why. "We don't leave anybody behind. We start together, and we finish together." All 26 Marines waited for Brown -- even though their families were waiting for them at a scheduled welcome-home bash at Fort Snelling.

Brown's mother Terry was glad they did. "They all come back together... no matter what it takes and I think that's very important," she told WCCO-TV.

Frequent TSA critic Richard A. Altomare, Founder and Chairman of the Coalition for Luggage Security -- and a former marine -- said, "I'm proud that Sergeant Dan Brown's Marine unit refused to report to their post until the 'man left behind' was permitted to get on a passenger plane. This TSA's bloated bureaucracy with documented insensitive treatment of countless Americans really rings home a need to dismantle their growing airport agency before all American freedoms are lost -- since now even the United States Marines can't help us."

The TSA watch lists are shrouded in such secrecy that it's impossible to tell if they have done any good. The TSA refuses to say how people get on the list or even how many are on. On the other hand, the absurdities of the list have been well publicized.

Senator Ted Kennedy, former child actor David Nelson, and other celebrities have turned up on the list. (TSA explained to Sen. Kennedy that there was a terrorist who once used "T. Kennedy" as an alias. "T" is not one of the Senator's initials; his full name is Edward Moore Kennedy).

Some of our own writers were placed on the list after we ran several Aero-Views critical of TSA management.

In the last few weeks, a DHS official originally recruited by TSA was in the news after being caught in a child sex sting; as Aero-News reported, before joining TSA he took early retirement from Time magazine after a porn scandal there.

Last month, a classified Government Accountability Office report leaked to NBC News reportedly revealed that security testers were able to bring bomb-making materials through TSA security at 21 of 21 airports tested.

But the TSA will not strike its colors; it has not yet begun to fight. Boston TSA head George Naccara told CSO Online, a magazine for security executives, last month that the TSA needed to extend its unique approach to security to other modes of transport: "subway stations, rail terminals, cruise ship and ferry docks, even special events like conventions."

"TSA was never clearly given a mandate to focus only on aviation," Naccara said. "I want to bring a sense of urgency to other modes and explain to them what we do and how it can be adapted to work in their environments."

Meanwhile, does the Marine of the hour have any words? Turns out he does.  "As somebody who has served 16 months over in Iraq for the U.S. Marine Corps and come home and get hassled by TSA, it's kind of a major disappointment," Daniel Brown told TV station WCCO. "I've been fighting terrorism for the last 16 months in Iraq. I don't think I should have to come home and deal with this."

Brown's father Carey echoed his son's sentiments. "For an individual who spent two tours over in Iraq fighting for his country, I think it's one of the biggest bogus things they could ever come up with."

WIth luck, no one at TSA will take that as a challenge.

FMI: www.tsa.gov

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