Cook County Judge Yolande Bourgeois has served on the bench for a decade. You can imagine her surprise when she was on her way home to Illinois from vacation earlier this month, only to be stopped at the airport for being on a known terrorist list.
Judge Bourgeois was with friends on their way back from Cancun celebrating her 65th birthday when it happened. Weather conditions forced them to take a layover in Indianapolis, and the next day she went for what was supposed to be an easy and uneventful quick trip to Chicago. When she got her boarding pass for he short flight, however, it was marked “SSSS.” Little did she know at the time that this meant “Secondary Security Screening Selection.
A TSA agent noticed the designation and quickly summoned a supervisor.
“He hands her my documents, she looks at it and she goes, ‘Her?’,” Judge Bourgeois told NBC Chicago. “She said, they’ve got you on a known terrorist list, and I said—what??””
At that point, the judge said, six or seven TSA agents were present, resulting in a check of her suitcase and electronics, as well as a full body pat-down.
Judge Bourgeois asked who put her on a terrorist list and they said it was the airline, but TSA spokesperson Michael McCarthy told the local station that it was the TSA’s Secure Flight protocols that resulted in the tag. McCarthy didn’t get into the details of this case, but said sometimes people are marked at random despite not being on any list.
The judge questioned the wisdom of such a practice. “Is anyone safer because I’m on a terror list?” she asked. “I don’t think so!”
If it was a random selection, it’s likely that she won’t be selected again. However, if there was any particular reason having to do with the flight or the judge’s background that led to the “SSSS” mark, she would have to go through an application process for redress from the TSA. McCarthy recommended that people in such a situation could find out by seeing if they’re marked again for their next flight.