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Synthesis/Regeneration 28   (Spring 2002)

Green Party Opponent of Afghan War
Detained at US Airport

by David Walsh

The episode at the Bangor airport raises serious questions of democratic rights. Have federal authorities already provided to the airlines a list of those who are considered undesirable because of their opposition to the Bush administration’s war in Afghanistan? Via the Bangor Daily News, various official spokespeople scoffed at the notion that Oden was targeted because of her beliefs. An FBI representative, according to the newspaper, would neither confirm nor deny the existence of any particular name on the “terrorist watch list,” but said it was “extremely unlikely” that Oden was considered a potential terrorist because she was unknown to the federal police agency.

There is, however, no reason to accept the authorities’ version of events.

It simply does not hold water. Whatever verbal exchange took place between Oden and the National Guardsman, the objective fact remains that an opponent of the Afghan war was detained, confronted with heavily armed men and arbitrarily prevented from flying. Oden points out in her interview that her opinions are well-known in the area and that, in fact, she had a piece outlining her organization’s opposition to the war published in a Bangor newspaper. The article, available on the Green Party USA web site, includes this passage: “Bring all American troops home from all over the world. We do not need far-flung bases whose only purpose is to protect US businesses. Let US corporations ... protect themselves.” The notion that the local FBI would not be aware of such a public statement is ludicrous.

According to the Daily News, authorities assert that while Oden was singled out for added security measures, “it was more likely due to the manner in which she purchased her ticket than for her activist past.” Why should they be believed? Individuals are now being targeted for special attention, for example, if they purchase tickets with cash at the last moment. Oden, however, bought her nonrefundable ticket online.

An effort by this reporter to pry a serious explanation out of Bangor airport officials was unsuccessful. Interim airport director Rebecca Hupp observed that the placing of an “S” on Oden’s boarding pass was the result of a “computer generated profile,” an “additional security measure.” She explained this was the result of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. When asked what the criteria were, Hupp said “I can’t give you any details.” It’s on a “need-to-know” basis, she maintained. What profile could Oden, a 60-year-old woman from northern Maine, possibly have met, other than the obvious political one? Hupp couldn’t say, simply repeating the mantra that the Green Party official “meets the profile.” She commented, “I can’t speculate what those criteria are.” The conversation had a Kafkaesque quality to it, which is to say, it smacked of police-state mentality and measures.

It has generally been standard operating procedure for the American ruling elite to insist that no attempt is being made to clamp down on political opposition even as it does precisely that.

It has generally been standard operating procedure for the American ruling elite to insist that no attempt is being made to clamp down on political opposition even as it does precisely that. During the McCarthyite witch-hunt, for example, film industry executives strenuously denied the existence of a blacklist. There were always other reasons given why an individual was denied employment. So today it can be expected that all sorts of explanations will be advanced to justify repressive measures. But a systematic campaign against democratic rights is well under way, about which there is virtually no public discussion. It is worth noting that Oden’s treatment has been entirely blacked out by the national media.

This article is reprinted with permission of the World Socialist Web Site. The full text can be found at http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/nov2001/grn-n06.shtml

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