Stephen Hayes, a senior writer at The Weekly Standard and a regular Fox News contributor, was informed Tuesday that he had been placed on the Department of Homeland Security’s Terrorist Watchlist.
Hayes, who spoke to POLITICO by phone on Tuesday, suspects that the decision stems from U.S. concerns over Syria. Hayes and his wife recently booked a one-way trip to Istanbul for a cruise, and returned to the U.S., a few weeks later, via Athens.
“I’d be concerned if it was anything more than that,” Hayes said.
Hayes first learned about his status on the watchlist during a trip to Minneapolis a few weeks ago when he was stopped for extra screening.
“When I went online to check in with Southwest, they wouldn’t let me. I figured it was some glitch,” he explained. “Then I got to the airport and went to check in. The woman had a concerned look on her face. She brought over her supervisor and a few other people. Then they shut down the lane I was in, took me to the side, told me I was a selectee and scrawled [something] on my ticket.”
“On my way back. the same thing happened,” he continued. “I got pulled out, they closed down the lane, and did a full pat-down and looked in all parts of my luggage.”
Things got slightly awkward on that return flight, because one of the TSA employees was a frequent Fox News viewer. “He knew I wasn’t an actual terrorist,” Hayes explained, “but it didn’t matter.”
Hayes finally contacted Southwest on Tuesday, ahead of another flight, to ask why he couldn’t check in. A customer service supervisor told him he wasn’t going to be able to get a boarding pass before arriving at the airport.
“So I asked if I was on the government’s terrorist watchlist, and she said ‘Yes.'”
Prior to joining The Weekly Standard, Hayes served as a senior writer at National Journal’s Hotline and as director of the Institute on Political Journalism at Georgetown University. He has written for at least a half-dozen prominent publications and has appeared on as many television news networks.
At the time of our conversation, Hayes was on the DHS website trying to fill out forms to get his name cleared. It wasn’t going well.
“Not surprisingly, it’s confusing,” Hayes said. “The first time I did it, the whole site froze. Now it’s asking me for my passport number and a bunch of other information. Then I think I’m supposed to submit an actual copy of my passport, which I obviously can’t do electronically.”
We wish him the best of luck.