Surprise Off the Top

Dear Viewers,

Last night's show was, from my perspective, technical problem free. But even if no technical problems, the show was a "surprise" off the top.

The show changed within 2 minutes of going to air when I was told by my N.Y. line producer that the person taken off that United flight from London was Cat Stevens (search). Apparently he is on a federal watchlist. I have no idea whether that is justified or not. I also don't know the criteria for the list (although now I am curious.)

We had known at least 30 minutes before our show that a United flight from London had been diverted while in the air but we did not know who was removed from the flight once it landed. We learned the identity of the passenger removed just a few minutes before 10 p.m. eastern.

We were lucky to get a guest within seconds ... we had someone from TSA. (As an aside, I admit that I am particularly grateful when we add guests this fast to our line up that the guests name is easy to pronounce. I often practice - in my office - saying names and when you add one this fast, there is no chance to practice.)

What I don't understand is this: why would a flight take off with someone on a watchlist? Would you not think that the passenger list would be compared to the watchlist BEFORE the flight took off? What if the passenger on the watchlist was like Richard Reid, who tried to light his shoes on fire (which contained an explosive?) Reid, if you recall, was traveling from Europe to the United States.

I thought I would let you read some e-mails about Cat Stevens (and remember, these are random e mails that I have pulled from the show e-mail account):

E-mail No. 1

Interestingly, Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens was forbidden entry to the country yesterday for national security reasons. His London to Washington DC flight had to be diverted to Maine. What's noteworthy about this fact is that he wanted to get into such a secularized, infidel country like the United States in the first place. Wouldn't he feel much more at home in Iran, Afghanistan or Pakistan?

E-mail No. 2

Singer Cat Stevens denied US entry (Is the FBI actions surreal or is it me?)

E-mail No. 3

Why was Cat Stevens on a watch list? Just because of his faith, or is there more to the story?


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