Just like with the Patriot Act and all the national-security measures installed afterward, like the No-Fly List. Right?
Trust Bush, we're told. He would never abuse such immense power.
So how is it that a guy like James Moore -- author of Bush's Brain and one of the original reporters on the Bush AWOL story -- wound up on the No-Fly Watch List?
- I made it a point to arrive very early at the airport. My reservation was confirmed before I left home. I went to the electronic kiosk and punched in my confirmation number to print out my boarding pass and luggage tags. Another error message appeared, "Please see agent."
I did. She took my Texas driver's license and punched in the relevant information to her computer system.
"I'm sorry, sir," she said. "There seems to be a problem. You've been placed on the No Fly Watch List."
"I'm afraid there isn't much more that I can tell you," she explained. "It's just the list that's maintained by TSA to check for people who might have terrorist connections."
"I'm afraid so, sir. Here's an 800 number in Washington. You need to call them before I can clear you for the flight."
Exasperated, I dialed the number from my cell, determined to clear up what I was sure was a clerical error. The woman who answered offered me no more information than the ticket agent.
"Mam, I'd like to know how I got on the No Fly Watch List."
"I'm not really authorized to tell you that, sir," she explained after taking down my social security and Texas driver's license numbers.
"What can you tell me?"
"All I can tell you is that there is something in your background that in some way is similar to someone they are looking for."
"Well, let me get this straight then," I said. "Our government is looking for a guy who may have a mundane Anglo name, who pays tens of thousands of dollars every year in taxes, has never been arrested or even late on a credit card payment, is more uninteresting than a Tupperware party, and cries after the first two notes of the national anthem? We need to find this guy. He sounds dangerous to me."
"I'm sorry, sir, I've already told you everything I can."
"Oh, wait," I said. "One last thing: this guy they are looking for? Did he write books critical of the Bush administration, too?"
I have been on the No Fly Watch List for a year. I will never be told the official reason. No one ever is. You cannot sue to get the information. Nothing I have done has moved me any closer to getting off the list. There were 35,000 Americans in that database last year. According to a European government that screens hundreds of thousands of American travelers every year, the list they have been given to work from has since grown to 80,000.
Somehow, I don't think this will be last such case.