As I set out to fly home from the UK on Monday following a short film project in Cambridge, I found my boarding pass, which I had been blocked from obtaining online the night before, carrying a bold-faced SSSS stamp in the lower right corner. Asking about it I was told by the British employee at the United check-in counter, “That is because you are on a US Department of Homeland Security list, sir.”
Later, after my son and I got the boarding gate, my name was called and I was ushered through a door in the wall behind the gate desk where two British security agents pawed through my bag and ran a cloth over computer, phone and all the zippers on my suitcase and computer bag looking for traces of explosives. After that I was politely told that I and my son (whose luggage was left uninspected) could board the plane. When I asked why I, a journalist with no criminal record, was being treated like a suspected terrorist, they laughed and said I would have to inquire of the DHS.
It’s not the first time this has happened to me. The same thing happened when my wife and I flew to Vienna in March where she was playing a concert on Vienna State Radio. That time at a checkpoint between Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and Terminal 2, my boarding pass was rejected, and when I got it reprinted a red stamp saying “ICE Security” was added. As on Monday, I was subjected to a special search in a separate location near the gate by an apologetic British security officer.
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