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'New info' led to Cat Stevens' deportation

Sept. 23, 2004 at 3:21 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- U.S. officials are investigating how the pop star Cat Stevens was able to board a flight to the United States, despite being on a terror watch list.

"That's a problem," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge told reporters at a Washington conference. "Obviously, we're going to go back and take a very, very close look at the information and the procedures."

Stevens, born Steven Georgiou, changed his name to Yusef Islam after becoming a Moslem in the late 1970's. News reports several years ago linked a Web site and charitable foundation he heads to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, and to the "Blind Sheikh" -- Omar Abdel-Rahman, convicted of involvement in a terrorist plot in New York city a decade ago.

Federal officials forced the London to Washington flight he was taking to land in Bangor, Maine, after realizing he was on the plane. He was deported after being questioned.

"Whether you are a celebrity or a complete unknown," Ridge said Wednesday, "if your name is on a watchlist, you will be treated the same."

Islam -- who was, Ridge said, "one of my favorite artists," -- had visited the United States as recently as May. But a U.S. government official, who asked not to be identified, told United Press International that "more recent information... (gained) within the past two months," had led authorities to place him on a "no fly" list.

Ridge stressed that the information leading to Islam's listing was not generated by the Department of Homeland Security. "There's no discretion," he said. "If he's on that list, he's not flying."

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