Thursday, February 23, 2006

Anti-War Congressional Democrat placed on NO-FLY List

PLATTSBURGH -- A candidate for Congress has been put on a federal watch list as a possible terror suspect, and he wants to know why.

Dr. Robert Johnson, a Democrat from Sackets Harbor, near Watertown, who is challenging incumbent Republican John McHugh in the 23rd District, said he was denied access aboard a Continental Airlines flight to Florida on Jan. 17 from Syracuse after officials informed him that he was on a "no-fly" list.

"I flew to England in December and there was no problem, then in January all of a sudden I'm on the list," said Johnson, a heart surgeon and former officer in the U.S. Army.

According to the federal Transportation Security Administration, watch lists are compiled based on "recommendations and information received from federal agencies, including intelligence and law-enforcement agencies."

Johnson said officials at the Syracuse airport would not tell him why he was placed on the list.

"Why would a former lieutenant colonel who swore an oath to defend and protect our country pose a threat of terrorism?" Johnson said.

Johnson, who ran against McHugh and lost in 2004, has been outspoken against the war in Iraq. He wonders if that is why he wound up on the list.

"This could just be a government screw-up, but I don't know, and they won't tell me."

Johnson said that if he is being targeted because of his views on the war, it is an outrage.

"This is like McCarthyism in the 1950s."

Johnson was eventually allowed to board the flight to Florida, but the incident has left him angered and frustrated.

"Being on that list and not being taken off is like character herpes; it's with you forever."

McHugh spokeswoman Brynn Barnett said it is possible that Johnson wound up on the list by mistake.

"Maybe there is somebody else named Bob Johnson that's on the list," she said.

Asked if Congressman McHugh had anything to do with Johnson being placed on the list, Barnett said sternly, "Certainly not."

Johnson said he wrote a letter to the Transportation Security Administration but doubts they will take his name off the list.

"I was shocked by this, at first, and kind of amused, but then when I started to think about it some more, it was chilling and scary."

No comments: