Head of Giraffe Project on watch list
June 25, 2008 · Updated 5:51 PM
John Graham, the president of the Giraffe Heroes Project and a former U.S. diplomat who once worked at the United Nations, has discovered he is on the nations Watch List of persons who pose a possible threat to national security.
Graham is determined to raise public consciousness about his listing, something he labels an assault on his civil liberties.
This fight is much bigger than one person, Graham said.
I am not sure if it was a mistake or if I am targeted for some reason. I have no idea, Graham said.
Graham, 63, is a Langley resident and has been involved in the Giraffe Heroes Project since 1983. He discovered he was on the Watch List when he was flying from Seattle to Oakland, Calif. to visit his grandchildren.
The ticket agent for Alaska Airlines informed him he was on a list as a threat and that he had to be specially cleared to board the plane.
The agent then handed Graham a written notice from the Transportation Security Administration, confirming his name was on a list of people suspected of being a threat to national security.
No one at the Transportation Security Administration could tell him more than that.
Try to find someone to talk to at the TSA, it is impossible to get any information, Graham said.
Whats worse, even if he is successful at getting cleared by the TSA, his name will remain on the cleared portion of the Watch List.
Graham is fighting his listing on three fronts; in the media, with Congress and by legal means.
I want to raise public consciousness. This affects thousands of people.
Grahams story is gaining regional and national notice. His story appeared in the Chicago Sun Times, he was a guest on Dave Ross talk show on KIRO Radio in Seattle and his story has been spreading on the Internet.
He has taken his battle to both sides of the aisle in Congress to change the law that authorizes the list, under the recently renewed Patriot Act. The American Civil Liberties Union is in his corner as well.
Graham not only wants to get his own name cleared, but hes also pushing back against the loss of civil liberties for all Americans. And some have told him they want to help.
I have two offers to underwrite all my legal costs, he said.
Hes working on legislative and legal strategies with the ACLU. And Graham is reaching out to Libertarian and conservative groups, such as the Cato Institute, to join in.
I have contacted 30 members of Congress, including Sen. Maria Cantwells office, Graham said.
I am receiving really good support from the full political spectrum. One-half of e-mails are from conservatives and Libertarians.
Whether its a mistake or somebody with the power to hassle me really thinks I am a threat, the lack of due process is unsettling, he said.
Graham said he is determined to see this fight through to the end, until the law is changed.
If I cant do this, who can? I have a long record of sticking my neck out, he said.
Graham is principle speaker for the Giraffe Heroes Project, an organization that for over 20 years has been honoring ordinary citizens around the world for sticking their necks out in extraordinary circumstances.
Graham once worked on national security affairs - he was involved with NATOs Nuclear Planning Group, for example - and he knows that careful screenings at places like airports are necessary.
At one time, he had an ultra security clearance from the FBI. Now he travels frequently, working for peace all over the world.