Kennedy described to the stunned committee how airline ticket agents had repeatedly told him "You can't buy a ticket to Boston." When he asked "Why not?" the ticket agents replied "We can't tell you." The frustrated Senator was forced to take a bus from Washington back to Boston, and in one case to hitchhike.
Kennedy's dilemma highlighted the difficulty ordinary Americans have encountered if their names resemble aliases of suspected terrorists who have been placed on anti-terror watch lists by Homeland Security. James Bond, 37, a hardware store owner from Kansas City, Missouri told how he has been repeatedly denied access to business flights to Chicago.
"I stepped up to the ticket counter and said 'My name is Bond, James Bond'," he said. "The ticket agent looked at me funny, consulted a list, then had the air marshals take me away and strip search me. I had to ride the damn bus. It was humiliating, plus I was late for my meeting."
The difficulties have apparently been multiplied for people of color with funny Arabic sounding names. In April, U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama of Illinois was shackled and sent to the Louisiana State Penitentiary when he attempted to board a flight to Miami. He spent a week on a rural chain gang before his identity was cleared.
Conversely, real terrorists have apparently been able to fly using unusual, but typically American-sounding aliases. In July, Homeland Security finally arrested Mustafa Al-Gazali Al-Bani Kareem Jamal Abdul when he attempted to board a flight in Milwaukee using the name "Emily Dickinson."
In a pending case, the American Civil Liberties Union has sued the government on behalf of citizens who have not been able to clear up their identities.