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Inside Politics

Kennedy has company on airline watch list

Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, said he's been subjected to extra security at airports.
John Lewis
Edward Kennedy
Transportation Security Administration

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Edward Kennedy is not alone.

A second prominent lawmaker said Friday that he's been subjected to extra security at airports because his name appears on a list designed to prevent terrorists from boarding planes.

Rep. John Lewis, D - Georgia, a nine-term congressman famous for his civil rights work with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., has been stopped 35 to 40 times over the past year, his office said.

Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on border security Thursday that he's been stopped several times because his name appeared on an airline watch list.

Lewis contacted the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security and executives at various airlines in a so-far fruitless effort to get his name off the list, said spokeswoman Brenda Jones.

Instead, Lewis got a letter from the Transportation Security Administration that he can present to ticket agents indicating he has cleared an identity check with the agency. But the letter warns he might still be subject to extra security checks before being allowed to fly.

Other airline passengers have been given similar letters after they've complained to the TSA.

The letter given to others reads in part, "While TSA cannot ensure that this procedure will relieve all delays, we hope it will facilitate [a] more efficient check-in procedure for you."

Jones said Lewis' office has been contacted by another man named John Lewis seeking assistance from the congressman because he, too, has faced extra screening.

Lewis is frustrated by the experience, Jones said.

In one incident, security officials took "every single item" out of his luggage, she said. Another time, after he was allowed to board, security officials questioned him at his seat.

Kennedy detailed similar stories at the hearing.

During his first incident, Kennedy said someone at the US Airways ticket counter refused to take his Visa credit card and said he couldn't fly to Washington.

"I said I've been getting on this plane for 42 years," Kennedy said to laughter. "Why can't I get on the plane back to Washington?"

CNN congressional producer Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

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