Why are they suspect until proven innocent?
By Brock N. Meeks
Chief Washington correspondent
Updated: 4:52 p.m. ET July 26, 2005
WASHINGTON - They have served in our wars, they enforce and adjudicate our laws, they hold top secret security clearances and their entrepreneurial spirit helps energize the economy. Leading lives of ordinary distinction they have little in common, save this: when they fly they are pulled into a demeaning orbit of “suspect until proven innocent” because their names are on a government terrorist watch list.
Every day thousands of airline passengers are wrongly identified as being on the Transportation Security Administration list of known or potential threats to commercial aviation. Actually, there are two lists. One is the hardcore “No Fly” list. A traveler identified on that list will not be permitted on a commercial airliner. The other list is called the "Selectee list,” which allows travel but only after full vetting of personal history.
The hardcore list contains name of people who are known terrorists or have solid ties to terrorism. Persons may land on the “Selectee list” for a variety of reasons, including prior dangerous behavior, such as trying to pass a gun through a security checkpoint or because information linking them to terrorism isn’t solid enough to place on them the “No Fly” list.
Such nuance is cold comfort for the thousands of persons each day that become ensnared in this hassle of having to prove their innocence just to hop a flight. MSNBC.com recently heard from dozens of those whose names are on the watch list. Some of them agreed to tell us their stories.
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