NOW HEAR THIS: I AM NOT A TERRORIST. Today Eric Lipton of The New York Times reports on the Bush administration's latest effort to leave no stone unturned in its quest to terrorize the American people:

A proposal by Homeland Security Secretary Michael
Chertoff would allow the United States government not only to look for known terrorists on watch lists, but also to search broadly through the passenger itinerary data to identify people who may be linked to terrorists, he said in a recent interview.

No big deal, you say? Well, it could be for someone like me -- or maybe even you.

In 1998, I traveled to Pakistan and India on a Ford Foundation-funded research project for a NGO. I spent a week on the Pak-Afghan border in Peshawar, then home to Osama bin Laden, where I entered an Afghan refugee camp in what is known as an "extralegal" manner, through an old-school mujahadeen contact. It was two months after bin Laden had issued his death-to-Americans fatwah.

I traveled home through Delhi, but almost didn't make it out of India. It was the day that India began its nuclear bake-off with Pakistan via a bomb test in the desert. I had a Pakistani visa in my passport, and had to convince airport authorities that I was not a spy. Four months later, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed.

Thanks to the creativity of my Tatar grandfather (at least that's what we think he was; his parents were born in Poland), my "Americanized" last name is the Turkic-language suffix for "homeland." Presumably because of his exotic ancestry, the family coat of arms features a sword flanked on either side by crescent moons. Although mine is spelled in the French, feminine manner, my first name is also bestowed upon Arab boys. Hmmm...I'm even looking like a terrorist to me at this
point. (Never mind the French guy whom I had a fling with in Peshawar, who may or may not have been a mercenary.)

And that's not all. A year later, I traveled to London, where I met the friend who would become my Washington, D.C., housemate -- until he took a post with an NGO in Kazakhstan.

At the end of this week, I'm scheduled to fly to New Orleans through D.C.'s National Airport. If you don't hear back from me, please send a posse to Gitmo.

--Adele M. Stan