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<nettime> Watch what you read
cisler on Sat, 20 Oct 2001 01:01:12 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Watch what you read


October 18-25, 2001
Philadelphia Citypaper.net

Novel Security Measures

A local man was kept off a recent flight because of a book he was carrying.

by Gwen Shaffer

Everyone knows it is a bad idea to try and board a plane carrying a box
cutter, a flight manual written in Arabic, or a sack full of mysterious
white powder. But with ultra-tightened airport security, a book could also
prevent you from boarding that plane.

No kidding. It happened just last week in Philadelphia.

Neil Godfrey arrived at Philadelphia International Airport around 9:30 a.m.
on Wed., Oct. 10. His brotherıs girlfriend dropped him off with plenty of
time to spare before his 11:40 a.m. United Airlines flight. Godfrey was on
his way to Phoenix, where his father lives. From there, the family was
planning to head out for a vacation at Disneyland.

It is fair to say that Godfrey ‹ brother of City Paper webmaster Ryan
Godfrey ‹ doesnıt look unusual for a 22-year-old kid living in Center City.

His outfit that day was typical: black Dockers, a T-shirt with a logo for
the now-defunct Phoenix Gazette newspaper and New Balance running shoes. He
has a medium build, recently dyed jet-black hair and a quiet demeanor.

When Godfrey stepped up to the ticket counter, the United clerk informed him
he had been selected for a random baggage search.

"No problem," he replied, going through the usual motions of checking his
bag and getting a boarding pass. Now toting nothing but a novel and the most
recent copy of The Nation magazine, Godfrey hiked through the concourse
toward his boarding gate.

As he passed through the metal detector, an airport security guard furrowed
his brow at Godfreyıs reading selections as they disappeared through the
conveyor belt.

On the cover of the book, Hayduke Lives! by Edward Abbey, is an illustration
of a manıs hand holding several sticks of dynamite. The 1991 novel is about
a radical environmentalist, George Washington Hayduke III, who blows up
bridges, burns tractors and sabotages other projects he believes are
destroying the beautiful Southwest landscape.

"For the first time, it occurred to me the book may be a problem," Godfrey

He proceeded through the security checkpoint and sat down to read near his
boarding gate. About 10 minutes had passed when a National Guardsman
approached Godfrey.

"He told me to step aside," Godfrey says. "Then he took my book and asked me
why I was reading it."

Within minutes, Godfrey says, Philadelphia Police officers, Pennsylvania
State Troopers and airport security officials joined the National Guardsman.
About 10 to 12 people examined the novel for 45 minutes, scratching out
notes the entire time. They also questioned Godfrey about the purpose of his
trip to Phoenix.

The fact that Godfrey recently dropped out of Temple University and has yet
to find a job may have piqued suspicion of law enforcement officials even

"The fact that I donıt work or go to school may have contributed to them
thinking I have nothing to live for," Godfrey speculates.

Eventually, one of the law enforcement officials told Godfrey his book was
"innocuous" and he would be allowed to board the plane.

"I was pretty shaken up," he says. "But I also felt guilty that I hadnıt
realized bringing this book to the airport may cause a problem."

Another 10 minutes or so passed while he sat in the waiting area. A female
United employee ‹ Godfrey failed to jot down her name ‹ came over and
informed him that he wouldnıt be allowed to fly, "for three reasons."

The first reason, she said, was that Godfrey was reading a book with an
illustration of a bomb on the cover. Secondly, she said, he purchased his
ticket on Sept. 11. (Godfrey bought the ticket on Priceline.com shortly
after midnight, at least eight hours before the World Trade Center was

And the final reason cited by the United employee was that Godfreyıs Arizona
driverıs license had expired. The employee pointed to a date to substantiate
this allegation.

"No," Godfrey told her. "Thatıs the day the license was issued."

The woman then pointed to another date on the card, Feb. 17, 2000,
contending it was the expiration date. Godfrey countered that the date
identified him as "under 21" until then.

"Too bad, itıs too late," the flight attendant informed him.

A defeated and disappointed Godfrey reclaimed his luggage and was escorted
out of the airport.

When he got home, Godfrey did what a lot of guys do when they need consoling
‹ he phoned his mom.

Godfreyıs mother offered to call United and attempt to straighten things
out. A central reservation clerk assured her that her son was not banned
from ever flying United again. She booked him on a different flight to
Phoenix, this one departing Philadelphia at 3:04 p.m. that same afternoon.

Godfrey scurried back to the airport, leaving the Abbey novel at home. He
exchanged it for a seemingly benign novel, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of

When Godfrey arrived at the airport around 1:15 p.m., his luggage was again
searched. But as Godfrey passed through the metal detector, a police officer
recognized him from the commotion just a few hours earlier. The cop pulled
Godfrey aside and made a few phone calls. Ultimately, he declared that
everything checked out fine. But a National Guardsman standing nearby vetoed
that decision.

"This time, they took my Harry Potter book and about four people studied it
for 20 minutes," Godfrey says.

Finally, at about 1:45 p.m., officials apparently felt reassured that
Godfrey was not a security threat. They told Godfrey he would be permitted
on the plane, but that he couldnıt pass through security until 2:30 p.m.

At the appointed time, an escort took Godfrey through security, while at
least 15 law enforcement officials looked on. Rather than taking Godfrey
directly to his gate, however, he was ushered into a private interrogation

"They patted me down and found nothing," Godfrey says. But when he emerged
from this room, Burt Zastera, supervisor of airport operations for United,
told him he would not be allowed to fly.

"He told me he didnıt know the reason why, that he was Œjust conveying the
information,ı" Godfrey recalls. Zastera gave Godfrey a contact number he
could call for a full explanation.

Godfreyıs father called that number and was told his son was banned from
flying United because he cracked "a joke about bombs."

"That is totally false," Godfrey says, pointing out that no one at the
airport ever mentioned this to him. Plus, Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) regulations stipulate that any passenger who jokes about explosives be
arrested on the spot. By contrast, Godfrey was never charged or even accused
of breaking the law. In fact, Philadelphia Police officers didnıt even file
an incident report, according to department spokesman Cpl. Jim Pauley.

Other airport and law enforcement officials have very little to say about
Godfreyıs treatment.

Zastera says he is "not allowed to comment" on what happened because it is a
security matter. United Airlines spokesman Chris Bradwig says he is
"unaware" of the Oct. 10 incident.

"Even so, we donıt comment on security matters," he says.

A supervisor with Aviation Safeguard, the company United contracts to man
security checkpoints in Philadelphia, denied responsibility for detaining

"The only ones who determine who canıt get on a flight is the airline," says
an Aviation Safeguard supervisor, who refused to provide her name. "We donıt
stop any books."

Philadelphia International spokesman Mark Pesce agrees that only individual
airlines determine whether to permit a passenger to fly.

"When a passenger passes through security, it is under the jurisdiction of
the airline. We donıt get involved," he says, adding that stories like
Godfreyıs are likely to become increasingly common.

The FAA has no policy regulating "specific types of reading material," says
spokeswoman Arlene Salac.

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