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Adams off terrorist watch list Higgins brokers deal with federal agencies

Irish leader Gerry Adams, who was prevented from boarding a plane for Buffalo for a St. Patrick's Day observance, has been removed from a terrorist watch list, Rep. Brian Higgins said Tuesday.

The Buffalo Democratic congressman, who was Adams' prospective host, met in his office with officials of the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration and the Ad-Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs to learn what happened on March 17.

The administration had maintained that Adams was not on a watch list.

The bipartisan Ad Hoc committee was put together by Higgins and Rep. Peter King, R-Seaford, after Bush administration officials declined to say why Adams was detained for special screening at Dulles International Airport in Virginia on March 17.

The screening kept Adams from boarding a United Airlines flight to Buffalo. Adams, the leader of the Irish nationalist group Sinn Fein, had just come from a White House reception where President Bush greeted dozens of Irish leaders.

Sinn Fein, a Gaelic phrase, stands for "We Ourselves."

Initially, the TSA denied Adams had been detained on its orders. The agency said that United Airlines had chosen Adams for special screening either at random or because of his itinerary.

At the meeting in Higgins' office, Bush administration officials finally conceded that a federal agency had put Adams on a terrorist watch list, but declined to say which one.

Attending the meeting in Higgins' office were Robert D. Jamison, deputy director of the TSA, and three of his aides.

Higgins said the TSA officials said any one of several agencies can put an individual on a terrorist watch list, without the concurrence of any other.

The agencies include the TSA, Homeland Security and the State Department, which had been working with Adams to "decommission" the militant Irish Republican Army.

Higgins said the Ad Hoc Committee wants to get to the bottom of the incident.

"TSA, which maintains the list and relays the information to individual airlines, confirmed today that Gerry's name has been removed from the watch list for individuals requiring extra security," Higgins said.

"This matter is not closed," Higgins said. "I will persist until Sinn Fein staff, those who have become instrumental in the movement towards peace and the implementation of the Good Friday Accords, are removed as well. I thank TSA for their hard work and responsiveness thus far."

Sinn Fein is understood to be the political arm of the IRA. Adams remains a controversial and polarizing figure. Convicted by a United Kingdom magistrate of participating in IRA activities, Adams has never admitted being a member of the outlawed IRA. He has publicly chafed at Bush administration restrictions against raising funds for Sinn Fein because of fears the IRA might use the money for violent activities.

President Bill Clinton saw Adams as a force for Irish peace. But last year Bush excluded him from St. Patrick's Day observances at the White House because of acts of violence associated with the IRA. This year, Bush invited Adams as one of scores of Irish officials in a way that some Irish Americans felt marginalized Adams' standing.

email: dturner@buffnews.com

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