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Published: Tuesday, 8/24/2004

On high alert for Ted

EDWARD M. Kennedy, heir of a political dynasty and liberal lion of the Senate, can walk into any airport in America and have no problem being recognized. But most people passing through the concourse would have an easier time boarding a plane than he would.

When Sentor Kennedy told a stunned audience at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday that between March 1 and April 6, US Airways ticket agents tried to block him from boarding planes five times, jaws dropped around Washington.

"I've been getting on this plane, you know, for 42 years. Why can't I get on the plane?" Mr. Kennedy said as he recounted one incident for his Senate colleagues. Like other Americans unfairly singled out by a system high on police powers but short on common sense, Mr. Kennedy discovered that his name resembled an alias used by a suspected terrorist who had been barred from flying on airlines in the United States.

Was it a political dirty trick or something more sinister: an out-of-control bureaucracy? While it might be fun to speculate on the former, the far greater likelihood is that it's the latter.

Something is amiss in the Department of Homeland Security when one of America's most recognized public officials is repeatedly denied the ability to board a plane.

If that's what the leading survivor of the Kennedy clan must go through, imagine the hassle that ordinary citizens face.

Senator Kennedy can at least laugh about the experience. If the going gets rough, he can always travel by private plane. It's the rest of us who must bear the brunt of a malfunctioning Homeland Security.

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