Ex-U.S. spy recalls years on no-fly list
Posted by Randall Mikkelsen
ORLANDO, Fla – Decades of passing lie detector tests and the most stringent background checks count little when it comes to the U.S. no-fly terrorist watch list, the Pentagon’s former spy chief recalled on Monday.
Retired Lt. Gen. Patrick Hughes, once the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a top Homeland Security Department intelligence official, said after he entered the private sector in 2005 he was denied boarding on a flight because his name was on the no-fly list. It has taken him ever since to clear up the confusion.
“It happened three years ago, I just got off the list – Yay!,” Hughes said at a conference of intelligence analysts.
Security screenings were nothing new to Hughes — he said had passed them going back to the 1960s — but he was stopped short when the watch list flagged an Irish Republican Army member with the same name.
“It’s all about the name. I don’t see anything really subversive about Patrick …. Hughes, but it appears there’s an IRA guy out there who has the same name. Probably equally handsome,” he said.
Hughes’s was one of about 50,000 names on the no-fly list, which has mushroomed since the Sept. 11 attacks, when it contained just 16 people considered threats to aviation.
Also snagged by similar name mix-ups have been Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and 1960s civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis. Such problems show the watchlist is poorly managed, critics say, but authorities call it a useful tool and say they have tightened procedures against such problems.