My wife, Joyce, and I recently traveled to Vienna for a week, where she had been invited to perform on Austrian state radio. Passing through Heathrow on our way home, we were separated by an automated security gate. The gate, which required you to scan your boarding pass, allowed Joyce through, but when I ran my pass, it flashed “Invalid.”
A security attendant pointed me to a transit desk where I could get a new boarding pass printed. An agent there ran a new card and then pressed a rubber stamp on it before handing it to me. Spotting, in fresh red ink, the words “ICE Security,” I asked, “Why’s a stamp from the U.S. Immigration and Customs service being put on my boarding pass here in the U.K.? I’m not an immigrant.”
The ticketing agent replied, “That’s being done at the request of your Homeland Security Department, sir. You are on their list.”
Interesting, I thought, given that I was born in Washington, DC, to two native-born U.S. citizens. I walked back to the security checkpoint, put my new boarding pass on the scanner, and the gate opened. I rejoined my wife and we continued on to the main lobby of Terminal 2, where we ordered lunch. Suddenly, I heard my name on the terminal’s main PA system: “Mr. Lindorff, report immediately to your gate for a special security check!”
Arriving at the gate, I announced myself, and the gate attendant immediately said into his walkie-talkie, “The Lindorffs are here.” He told me to go past him and down a flight of stairs for my enhanced security check. “Can I go with him?” my wife asked, not wanting me to be hauled off somewhere without her knowledge.
“Certainly, ma’am,” he said. “You can go with your husband.” So we went down the stairs to find two steel tables with security officers standing behind them. A dark-skinned man passed us going up the stairs.
“Please place your open luggage and briefcase on the table along with your computer and cell phone,” said a security officer.
He proceeded to run an electronic device over my computer and cell phone, and another smaller one over my hands, explaining that this was to detect any trace of explosives. He rifled perfunctorily through my dirty laundry and then said we were free to board.
My wife cheekily asked why her carry-on luggage and computer bag—both identical to mine—had not been checked for explosives, and the inspector said, “The Department of Homeland Security just asked us to search your husband and his luggage, not yours.”
“In other words, you don’t really think we’re terrorists,” I said, adding, “I am a U.S. journalist with no criminal record. Why am I being treated like a suspected terrorist?”
“We don’t think you are a terrorist,” he replied. “It’s your Department of Homeland Security that’s telling us do this”…