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Are Some Boarding Pass “Glitches” Used to Track and Harrass Travelers?

Are Some Boarding Pass “Glitches” Used to Track and Harrass Travelers?
Jeff Edwards

In an eye-opening op-ed, journalist David Lindorff outlines a compelling case alleging that the U.S. government is using the guise of national security and public safety to track and, in some cases, harass journalists. Recent headlines seem to back up the investigative reporter’s contention that politics plays a major role in who is singled out for extra attention at the airport.

The mysteries surrounding certain airport and immigration security protocols is very much by design. It is a lot more difficult for nefarious elements to find a workaround for procedures designed to keep air travel safe if the bad guys don’t know exactly what those procedures are in the first place. One respected investigative reporter, however, is convinced that random airport searches and peculiar ticketing glitches may not be as arbitrary as officials would have us believe.

In a March 25th editorial column, journalist David Lindorff asserts that his recent ticketing check-in issues and repeated extra attention from airport security can be linked to a career of exposing government malfeasance. He shares mostly anecdotal (but at times, compelling) evidence to back up his contention that he is subject to added scrutiny when traveling solely because of his job.

Lindorff shared numerous incidents of being singled out at the airport. The sheer number of times the reporter recounted being temporarily detained by airport screeners and immigration officials certainly make it appear unlikely he was flagged at random each time. The journalist also shared remarkably candid conversations he had with security officials in the U.K. who admitted that he was being subjected to extra security screening at the behest of the U.S Department of Homeland Security.

“This made it clear beyond a doubt that I am on some internationally circulated watch list produced by my own country’s Homeland Security authorities – an action this is equally clear was being taken on account of my work as a journalist, since I have never done or even written anything or associated with anyone that would lead to suspicion that I was a terrorist or a threat to an airliner,” Lindorff wrote. “I am a journalist period. So much for the first amendment and the fourth too, if my computer and/or phone was searched.”

Still, Lindorff didn’t present much in the way of unequivocal evidence that he was specifically targeted for harassment or that his name appears on a watchlist of pesky journalists. As frequent flyers in the Flyertalk forums well know, sometimes a random secondary security screening is just that – random.

On the other hand, leaked documents revealed that Homeland Security compiled a secret list of journalists, activists and social media influencers who are involved in monitoring the immigration situation at the U.S/Mexico border. An NBC News report found that individuals whose names appeared on the list were frequently detained and harassed at the border.

Lindorff indicated that he believes his travel woes are in part due to his vocal criticism of the current and past White House administrations. “Yeah, I’m a journalist and our president doesn’t like journalists,” he recalled explaining during his most recent one-on-one security screening.

[Image Source: Shutterstock]

View Comments (7)


  1. alexmyboy

    April 24, 2019 at 4:45 am

    needs more data, but I bet he is right.

  2. MaldivesFreak


    April 24, 2019 at 7:47 am

    OK, so if he is being screened more often, what would be the objective? Are they making him miss flights, and missing flights to interview whistleblowers, sources or discover some secrets that the government doesn’t want found out? No. There was only one instance in his linked article that someone else missed their flight…..once.
    Are they threatening him or other journalists on the supposed list(s)? No. If they were it would surely be all over the news. Stopping a journalist more than other passengers is hardly going to scare them. This is not Iran, North Korea or some oppressive regime that stops you, takes you away to an interrogation room and you’re never seen again or are tortured and released years later. It would be extremely petty to just harrass journalists because you’re not going to make them stop what they do. But I suppose with someone like Trump in charge, pettiness could well be the reason…..

  3. drphun

    April 24, 2019 at 8:22 am

    A process can still be random yet give some situations a higher chance of being picked based upon certain criteria, such as a large amount of international travel, or travel to certain countries, makes you X times more likely to be randomly picked. It is still random.

  4. CEB

    April 24, 2019 at 7:37 pm

    First, being screened is NOT being harassed! It is part and parcel of traveling and the more frequently you travel the more you will be screened.

    I travel a lot, both internationally and domestically. As a result, I expect to get screened more than those who fly infrequently. If he doesn’t like being screened, then stay home.

    Just another whiny supposed journalist. Perhaps if he stuck to news and facts instead of opinion and editorial he would have less to complain about? Must have been a slow gossip day for him to try to pretend to do a study of screening policy!

  5. IanFromHKG

    April 25, 2019 at 10:03 pm

    “This is not Iran, North Korea or some oppressive regime that stops you, takes you away to an interrogation room and you’re never seen again or are tortured and released years later.”

    Assuming you’re talking about the US of A, then, er – yes it is. Ever heard of Guantanamo??

  6. bostontraveler

    April 26, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    @CEB that is an asinine response. Dissecting:
    1) Being screened is not the same thing as being stopped and questioned every time one travels. That is harassment.
    2) “If he doesn’t like being screened, then stay home”. Really? So let’s say you got on the list for some reason you don’t even know. It starts to happen to you all the time. Will you just stay home? Please.
    3) “Just another whiny journalist”. What a crass attitude and ignorant comment. Have you ever read about Laura Poitras? Is this the first time you have heard of the US harassing journalists? It’s a real thing.

    When the stopping and interrogating becomes routine it constitutes harassment. Plain and simple. What can happen? Well, assume you are traveling back to the US. You are working on a sensitive story that would reveal wrongdoing. Customs demands to take your computer. It downloads the information. Now your source is also a target. If you seriously think the US is benevolent and that there is “free press” look at the recently published Journalism Freedom Index- you’ll be surprised. It’s an increasing trend and a worrisome one. I want a free press, not one that is subtly coerced to say what they should say. Yet that is the direction we are going in. And by the way, this has been increasing over the past 15 years with our security apparatus.. “national security” you know?

  7. SportDiver

    May 7, 2019 at 9:53 am

    This appears to be a clickbait article about a DYKWIA journalist. What is the definition of “numerous incidents” and “sheer number” of times he was given extra attention by TSA? Welcome to 21st century airport security!

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