Monday, May 12, 2008

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER HELD, HARRASSED AT AIRPORT BY HOMELAND AGENTS

WAYNE MADSEN REPORTS It is definitely fascism when it happens to you. . . Yesterday, this editor and his colleague faced the Chertoffian menace at Washington's Reagan National Airport while heading to the gate to board a flight to Houston. It is now clear from a review of the events that unfolded that I was pre-selected for an intensive search and battery of questions even before arriving in line for the security screening. A Transportation Security Administration screener was overheard saying, "the guy with the beard." Since I was the only person in line who also had a beard, it was evident that a red flag had earlier been raised.

What followed, was worse than anything I had previously encountered while leaving Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, itself a revolting display of ingratitude to citizens of the country that bankrolls Israel, or the Israeli-run screening process at Amsterdam's Schipol Airport.

First, I was instructed to enter a glass isolation chamber and point out my belongings that were exiting the X-ray machine. Anyone with claustrophobia would really enjoy being placed in such a chamber and have to speak to the screener through small holes in the glass.

I was then led to an area where all my carry-on bags were emptied. I was also forced to empty my pockets of everything. A bevy of screeners then proceeded to go through my wallet examining everything: cash, credit cards, VA medical benefits card, National Press Club card, voter's registration card, and driver's license. Then came an examination of my press credentials and related IDs: Investigative Reporters and Editors card, Society of Professional Journalists card, National Archives research card, Library of Congress card, three press credentials, and membership card in Association for Intelligence Officers.

In a blatant violation of the First and Fourth Amendments, my reporter's notebooks, containing names of contacts in Houston and around the world were paged through by the screeners. Another screener asked if I minded being probed in "certain private areas." He then asked if I'd like the examination to be conducted in private. I replied, "no, let everyone see this." He then proceeded to examine my groin area.

Then came the battery of questions.

1. Are you feeling okay?

2. Where are you going today?

3. How long will you be there?

4. Why are you going there?

5. What story are you covering?

6. Who do you write for?

7. When did you move to Washington?

8. Where did you live before that?

9. What did you do for a living before?

10. Who was the most famous person you ever met?

11. What was the most famous event you ever covered?

12. What type of things do you write about?

13. What type of politics do you cover?

14. What is your place of birth?

My colleague, who had successfully passed through screening and was waiting for me, was then asked to step into the holding area so she "could see and hear what was going on." It was a ruse. She was also subjected to a full carry on bag examination, frisking, and a series of personal questions:

1, Are you with him?

2. Where are you going?

3. What is the purpose of your visit?

4. What story are you investigating?

5. How long were you in the US Air Force?

6. Where were you stationed overseas?

7. Why were you not overseas in the military?

8. When are you returning?

9. Who do you work for?

10. What is an independent journalist?

11. How long have you been working with him?

12. Do you find your job fulfilling?

13. What is your place of birth?

After this Gestapo-like of questioning, I was told that a TSA screener was writing details in a notebook for the "paperwork." My colleague was told TSA was going to file an "incident report.". . .

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