Activist, terrorist -- or opportunist?

Was a Green Party activist barred from flying because she was marked as a potential terrorist -- or simply because she was uncooperative?

Published November 5, 2001 7:34PM (EST)

When Green Party activist Nancy Oden was prohibited from boarding a flight at Bangor International Airport Thursday, some civil libertarians fumed that this was the first gross violation of civil rights under the new, so-called USA Patriot anti-terrorism measure signed by President Bush on Oct. 26.

Oden said she was singled out because of her public opposition to the bombing of Afghanistan, and was not allowed to board a plane to Chicago, where she was scheduled to address a Green Party USA convention.

"I was treated as if I were guilty just because Im a dissident and I speak out," she told the Bangor Daily News. "Theyre looking at me like I'm a terrorist and I'm just a peaceful person trying to go to a meeting in Chicago."

By Monday, a spam campaign was in full bloom, and left-wing Web sites were rallying to Oden's defense. "In a terrifying act of political repression, Bush has literally turned America's guns against law-abiding American citizens ... " says "We are outraged! Call the White House 202-456-1414 and Congress 202-224-3121 to demand an explanation!"

The Green Party USA, of which Oden is a member, is generally considered the left wing of the Green Party movement. Its 2000 platform, for example, was more radical than the one adopted by Ralph Nader, who ran on a platform approved by the Association of State Green Parties.

"I am shocked that U.S. military prevented one of our prominent Green Party members from attending the meeting in Chicago," said Elizabeth Fattah, in a statement that circulated widely via spam Monday. "I am outraged at the way the Bill of Rights is being trampled upon."

But airport and airline officials gave the Daily News a different account of the incident. "She was uncooperative during the screening process," said American Eagle spokesman Kurt Iverson, who added that Oden reportedly would not stand still when security staff tried to wave a metal-detecting wand over her. "Obviously if they cant submit to screening, [Federal Aviation Administration] regulations require that they not be allowed to board the plane."

There is no shortage of speculation about Oden; one camp argues vehemently that she really was a government target, and others say she's just a publicity hound. But the weirdest conspiracy theory of the day comes, not surprisingly, from the good people at the Free Republic, trying to link Oden to Osama bin Laden.

"I thought of that story about the terrorist Mohammed Atta and the trip to Maine? Then we had the report of terrorist in Maine. Come to find out there are 2 Green Parties in Maine and Nancy here is a little out in left field and at odds with the others in Maine. Why? Hummm ... There needs to be a complete looking into of this Green Party in Maine and Nancy Oden."

"Any reasonable American can see that the Greens are traitors!" writes one Free Republic poster. "Why haven't they *all* been arrested is what I want to know!?"

In her account of the incident to's Declan McCullagh, Oden describes a skirmish with a security guard that "insulted his little manhood," but denies she was uncooperative.

By Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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