Tuesday, January 10, 2006

4-year-old shows up on government 'no-fly' list

HOUSTON (AP) — Sijollie Allen isn't the first mother to have travel plans delayed because of a 4-year-old son.

But the fact that her holiday flights were gummed up because little Edward Allen's name shows up on a government terrorist watch list has the Houston woman confused and a bit angry.

"Is this a joke?" she recalled telling Continental Airlines agents Dec. 21 at Bush Intercontinental Airport. "You can tell he's not a terrorist."

Sijollie Allen, a Jamaican immigrant, said she doesn't understand why her American-born son should have to deal with this each time he travels just because he shares his name with a much older individual who is on the list.

"I know the government is trying to protect because of the terrorist attacks, but common sense should play a role in it," she said. "I don't think he should go through the trouble of being harassed and hindered."

On their flight from Houston to New York's La Guardia Airport, she said it took several minutes of pleading and a phone call by the ticket agent to finally get on the plane. It happened again on the Dec. 26 return flight, when she said a ticket agent told her, "You're lucky that we're letting you through instead of putting you through the other process."

Continental Airlines spokesman Dave Messing said Thursday that the airline would not discuss its security policies.

The Transportation Security Administration's "no-fly" list was established immediately after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to prevent people who may have terrorist ties from boarding commercial flights.

Among people with common names who have encountered problems at airports are U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., U.S. Rep. John Lewis D-Ga., and actor David Nelson from The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

Kennedy has said he had to make several calls to federal officials before his name was separated from the one on the list.

A TSA spokeswoman said the agency tells airlines not to deny boarding to children under 12 or select them for extra security checks even if their names match ones on the list.

"We do not require ID for children because there are no children on the list," said Carrie Harmon, a regional TSA spokeswoman. "If it's a child, ticket agents have the authority to immediately deselect them."

Sijollie Allen said she and her son are both hoping more agents heed that advice.

"My son said to me: 'I don't want to be on the list. I want to fly and see my grandma,' " she said.


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