President's Secret Service agent denied boarding

Document Date: June 10, 2003

A pilot removed an Arab American Secret Service agent from a flight on December 24 2001 when the agent was on his way to President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas.

“If he was treated that way because of his ethnicity, that will make me madder than heck.” – President Bush

The agent had asked the airline to call the Secret Service for verification, and even after the local transit police has affirmed his identity, the pilot still stopped him from boarding the flight, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

An American Airlines spokesman claimed that the inconsistencies in the paperwork the agent filed was the pilot’s basis for removing the agent. The American Airlines supported the pilot’s action and dismissed the suggestion that the removal was the result of racial profiling. The pilot released a statement saying that the agent was confrontational and abusive.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations allow a pilot to remove anyone from a flight on the ground of a security risk. However, the Department of Transportation has received about 20 complaints concerning the removal of passengers because of their religion and ethnicity.

The agent has not ruled out the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the American Airlines, and has demanded an apology.

Return to the “No Fly” List stories


Related Issues

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.