Feb. 23 (UPI) -- U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers checked the identification and documents of all passengers getting off a plane from San Francisco after it landed in New York on Wednesday afternoon, according to many on the flight.
The agency said it was working with U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement to locate an individual whose name they had, but not a picture.
"This individual was ordered removed by an immigration judge," CBP said in a statement to the media. "To assist our law enforcement partners, two CBP officers requested identification from those on the flight in order to help identify the individual. The individual was determined not to be on the flight."
Passengers said the officers appeared to be very carefully reviewing documents they were handed, studying passengers before letting them pass. Some questioned officers about why they were checking IDs and who they were looking for.
"[One officer] said, 'It's not for you to to worry about, we do it from time to time,'" Kelly Amedei, a passenger on the flight, told WNBC-TV. "I said, 'I've been on a thousand flights, I used to travel three weeks out of the month. I never had it happen on a domestic flight and I've never had it happen on an international flight.' He just looked at me and said 'leave it alone.'"
All aircraft passengers in the United States are screened when entering airports. These security checks are generally conducted by the Transportation Security Administration.
There are about 60,000 CBP agents at airports who also question people, but generally they are traveling to the United States from overseas -- this plane flew from San Francisco to New York.
"CBP should explain why one of its officers was apparently demanding that passengers on a purely domestic flight show ID," Hugh Handeyside, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberty Union's National Security Project, told Vice News. "CBP is not an always-and-everywhere police force, and any attempt to expand its operations beyond its authority would raise serious concerns."