8 Totally Random People Who Were Mistaken for Terrorists

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, hysteria over terrorism became increasingly evident at airports, subway stations, and anywhere that people of Arabic heritage gathered. Unfounded suspicions have caused some embarrassing mishaps between law enforcement officers and completely innocent people. Many of the people suspected of terrorist activity are subjected to aggressive interrogation, pat-downs, and even ruined credit scores that can prevent them from securing jobs, leasing an apartment, or buying a car. With the TSA cracking down on even small children, terrorism suspects are becoming less and less probable.

  1. 18-Month-Old Riyanna

    Jet Blue made a huge faux pas when they targeted a toddler named Riyanna on flight 510. After the girl’s family boarded the plane, a stewardess came on the intercom asking them to step off board, as their daughter had somehow managed to make the “no-fly” list. After a humiliating interrogation by the TSA for over an hour, the family was finally told they could re-board the plane. However, they were too embarrassed by the situation to face the other passengers at that point and simply left the airport. The parents believe they were wrongfully flagged because of their Middle Eastern origins. The mother was wearing a hijab, a head scarf. Yet, they are all American citizens born and raised in the United States.

  2. 4-Year-Old Isabella

    In yet another instance of children being mistaken for terrorists, 4-year-old Isabella was targeted at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport. When Isabella and her mother passed through security, an alarm was set off, resulting in a pat-down for the two of them. While Isabella patiently waited her turn, she saw her grandmother, and ran into her arms. This caused the TSA agents to panic, and as Isabella’s mother recalls, they continually referenced the notion that Isabella’s grandmother could have passed the child a handgun. The child was marked as a high security threat and she and her mother were taken to a separate room where security backup was called. Although they were eventually released, there’s no reason this small child should have been made to suffer through such an ordeal.

  3. Sandra Cortez

    Sandra Cortez was in the process of buying a new Subaru from a Denver local dealership when the car salesmen threatened to call the FBI on her. As is customary, the car salesmen drew up a credit report prior to selling Cortez the vehicle, which showed her as being on a government list of suspected terrorists and drug traffickers. Unfortunately, Cortez was mistaken for a woman with a similar name who was a wanted Colombian drug lord. Credit reports occasionally have such errors as creditors enter them into the online system. It took Cortez five years to unravel the damage inflicted on her credit reports.

  4. El-Masri

    A German man named El-Masri was mistaken for Khalid al-Masri, a man wanted for his affiliation with the September 11th attacks. When El-Masri traveled to the Macedonian capital of Skopje on New Years Day 2003, the border guards subjected him to questioning. His name originates from his Lebanese heritage. The border guards held him in a hotel room for the duration of three weeks before taking him to the airport, stripping off his clothing, beating him, drugging him, and flying him to Afghanistan. He was then transferred to a CIA-run facility where his interrogation occurred. Finally, four months later, he was dropped off on a road in Albania and left to fend for himself. According to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Condoleezza Rice admitted that the U.S. had been erroneous in its treatment of El-Masri.

  5. Gerard Butler

    After his 2003 audition for the film, Tomb Raider, Gerard Butler went to the airport where he was questioned by security guards. The audition required him to attach felt squares to the bottom of his shoes to block out some of the extraneous sound. Forgetting the felt squares were in place, Butler found himself trying to explain to several TSA agents that he had recently come from an audition alongside Angelina Jolie. The shoe bomber fiasco of 2001 was fresh on their minds, building panic over the reclaimed actor’s modified boots.

  6. Alexios Marakis

    Alexios Marakis is a Greek Orthodox priest. In 2009, he was visiting Tampa, Florida from his hometown of Crete, Greece when Marine reservist Lance Cpl. Jasen D. Bruce hit the man over the head with a tire iron. He then chased the priest for three blocks when at last Tampa police caught up with the pair and addressed the situation. According to Bruce, he had heard the priest yell, “Allahu akbar!” which is Arabic for “God is great!” However, Marakis maintains that he was only asking for directions and doesn’t even speak Arabic. Rather, he speaks Greek. Bruce’s lawyer says that Bruce was attacked, and he was merely responding to what he believed was a terrorist threat.

  7. Max Kahn

    Max Kahn is a BBC reporter who was mistaken for a terrorist and held down to the ground by aggressive police officers. The six policemen patted him down and searched his body, as they believed he carried a backpack bomb. Although the officers acted as such because of a call they received that an Arabic man had been seen outside of a shopping center with an odd-looking backpack dangling wires, the police apologized profusely to Kahn for their mishap. As it turns out, Kahn was standing outside of the shopping center with his transmitter equipment with the intention of carrying out a report on post office closures in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Khan wears a beard and dark hair, but is not, in fact, Arabic.

  8. E from The Eels

    The frontman from the band The Eels was wrongfully identified as a terrorist by the British police in 2010. While on a trip to London to promote the band’s new album, Tomorrow Morning, a loiterer was identified near the international embassy, piquing police interest. As they dispatched some officers to inspect the situation, E left his London hotel to go buy some batteries. Police assumed he was the loiterer in question and subjected him to a brief interrogation before realizing their mistake. As E puts it, “Not every guy with short hair and a long beard is a terrorist. Some of us just want to rock.”