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Mon, Aug 23, 2004

Ted Kennedy Got Off The No-FLy List, But What About Joe Normal?

It Ain't Easy...

After he was denied boarding on flights between Washington and Boston five times, it took Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) three weeks of calling Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to get off the government's no-fly list. So imagine how tough it is for an average citizen to get off the watch list.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports it ain't easy. Pointing to Kennedy's troubles, traced back to a terror suspect thought to be using a similar name as an alias, ACLU spokesman Jay Stanley told the paper, "This really speaks to just how difficult it can be for ordinary people. The complaints reflected in our litigation are serious."

The ACLU has filed two lawsuits on behalf of people who can't fly because their names appear on the lists.

Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) has had similar problems. He's filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security, saying he can't buy electronic tickets and his luggage is hand-searched every time he tries to fly.

It's the kind of problem that gives commercial aviation a bad name and the government seems to acknowledge that. Passengers who think they've been put on one of the government's list by accident can call the TSA's ombudsman, Kimberly Walton, at (877) 266-2837. They get a form letter in the mail asking for more information.

But, as Lewis said he was told by an airline employee in Atlanta recently, "Once you're on the list, there's no way to get off it."

FMI: www.tsa.gov

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