Letter: Federal Watch Lists

Good afternoon Hugh/JWR,

With the recent fervor arising over federal lists (airline travel, passport revocations, gun purchases, et cetera), I thought I would share a short story with the readership…

I am a professional pilot for a U.S. airline. I began flying in the 1980’s and have been feeding my family with my airman certificate for thirty years. Obviously, pilots are subject to rigorous background checks (more so since 9/11), but screening was in place in the 80’s when I began flying. In 2008 I received a letter from the Airport Police Office that has jurisdiction at the airport I fly out of (a major U.S. airport with major airline service), advising me that I had 14 days to appear in person at Airport Security and bring proof of both my identity and my U.S. citizenship, or my airport credentials would be revoked!

I called Airport Security, made an appointment, and dutifully appeared (in my Captain’s Uniform, nonetheless) with both originals and color copies of my U.S. birth certificate, State Driver’s License, State ID Card, State CHL, FAA Airman Certificate, FAA Medical Certificate, FCC Restricted Radiotelephone Operator’s Certificate, US Passport, FBI Criminal History Records Certification, Airline Employee Credentials, and my Airport Security Badge that their office had issued five years earlier (and renewed annually since then), which gives me access to the “secured” portion of the airport.

I asked to speak with the supervisor on duty and asked the supervisor how is it possible, with 30 years of flying history and all of the vetting I have been through over the years, that your office doesn’t know that I am a U.S. citizen? He had no answer, other than to say there must have been a mix-up on a DHS watch list somewhere.

Governor Malloy (of Connecticut) may think it is “Just Good Sense” to prevent anyone on the TSA no-fly list from buying a firearm, but when our government won’t tell the people who they are watching and why they are being watched, I think he is leading his state into dangerous waters. By threatening to revoke my airport credentials because I was possibly on “a list somewhere”, I was presumably guilty of “something” worth denying me my livelihood, and I haven’t had so much as a traffic ticket in over 20 years. The no-fly list was never designed to be used in this manner. – Captain B.