As It Happens

Getting off a no-fly list: the never-ending saga

Canadian Shahid Mahmood has spent almost 12 years trying to find out why his name was added to a no-fly list - and what he can do to have it removed.
Canadian editorial cartoonist Shahid Mahmood was held off a domestic Air Canada flight in 2004 because his name is on a no-fly list. He has been trying to get it off ever since. (Courtesy: Shahid Mahmood)

This week, As It Happens spoke to the mother of Syed Adam Ahmed. He's the six-year-old Montreal Canadiens fanatic from Markham, Ont., whose name — or a close proximity — is on a no-fly list, which makes flying with the youngster an exercise in frustration for his parents. They're eager to find out how his name got on the list, and what it will take to get it removed. 

Shahid Mahmood can relate. The Canadian editorial cartoonist is on the same no-fly list as Syed. He's spent more than a decade trying to find out why he was held off a domestic Air Canada flight in 2004 — and what, if anything, he can do to get his name removed. 

"I'm routinely presented with extra security at airports," Mahmood tells As It Happens guest host Helen Mann. "Three years ago when entering Chile I was separated from my family at the airport. I was taken away by Interpol, and I was detained, questioned, fingerprinted and photographed for two hours."

Mahmood says he now travels with a PIN number that was assigned to him by U.S. Homeland Security. Whenever he encounters an issue at the airport he shows the number. He says this helps alleviate some of the problems. But Mahmood says he's still asked questions a "normal passenger" doesn't get asked.