Congressman Consistently Hassled During Airport Screenings

By Matthew Harwood

Representative John Lewis (D-GA) has a problem: almost everytime he flies he's subjected to secondary security screening because his name is similar to one on the terrorism watch list.

According to the Chicago Tribune:

Last week, Lewis wrote a letter to the House Committee on Homeland Security complaining that he still has to present various forms of identification and endure multiple searches at airports all over the country, even though he carries a letter from Homeland Security explaining the mix-up.

In his letter, Lewis wrote that if he, an 11-term Congressman, can constantly be hassled at airport security then "you can only imagine what the average American suffers."

Christopher White, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), says the error isn't his agency's fault, but the fault of the airlines. Airlines have the responsibility of matching names from the terrorism watch list, compiled by the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, to their passenger manifests, according to TSA's Web site.

White believes that when TSA submits updated terrorism watch list reports to the airlines daily they confuse the three categories used to rank the threat a passenger poses.

The "no-fly" list is for those passengers denied boarding. The "selectee" list is for those passengers where suspicion is heightened and therefore they undergo further security screening before boarding. Finally there is the "cleared" list for those passengers who have experienced problems before but have been deemed safe to fly. Lewis, the AP reports, is on this list.

"The airlines continue misidentifying passengers," White said. "Some of them do a poor job of matching the [no-fly] lists to the manifests."

He also insisted that the quality of the terrorism watch list and its matching process will get better when the government takes over the job from the airlines next year.


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