Kennedy: I Landed On Terror Watch List
August 20, 2004 -- WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Kennedy revealed yesterday that he was stuck in a "no fly" zone earlier this year — after his name landed on a terrorist watch list kept by the Transportation Security Administration.
Kennedy said he first learned he was barred from the skies by the government when he tried to board a Washington flight to Boston in April.
The ticket agent for a U.S. Airways shuttle from Washington's Reagan National Airport wouldn't let him on the flight, and told him, "We can't tell you why," Kennedy recounted at a congressional hearing yesterday.
After confronting a supervisor, the blustery pol, who has been a senator since 1962, was ultimately allowed to board the hour-long flight.
Kennedy said he initially dismissed the incident and assumed it was the result of an error by his staff — until he encountered the same problem coming back to Washington.
"I've been getting on this plane for 42 years. Why can't I get on the plane back to Washington?" he asked gate agents. Kennedy added, "It happened three more times and [Homeland Security Secretary Tom] Ridge called to apologize."
The Massachusetts Democrat said it took several phone calls over a few weeks before the clerical error was cleared up and he again became an airline commuter in good standing.
Kennedy revealed the flying fiasco during the Senate Judiciary Committee's homeland-security hearing yesterday.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) couldn't resist a wisecrack, calling it a "conspiracy to keep Sen. Kennedy from getting where he wants to go."
Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchison, at the hearing, said the flap illustrates the "importance of improving the system."
A smiling Hutchinson also extended an apology, which prompted Hatch to say an apology shouldn't come with a grin.
Maybe it wasn't an accident.....