American FoI documents show USA is barring John Stewart from the country on allegations it admits are unfounded

On 29th September 2011 John Stewart set off for the USA for a speaking tour. He was arrested and taken off the plane by armed US police at New York JFK airport, under suspicion – in theory – of threatening Barak Obama. But he was held for lengthy questioning. He remains barred from entering the US.  Now the Telegraph’s David Millward reports that official US documents obtained by The Telegraph under American FoI legislation have raised fresh questions over John’s treatment. John spearheaded the campaign to block a 3rd Heathrow runway in 2010, and continues to lead the anti-runway campaign.  Documents now show that less than an hour before John’s Delta Airlines flight landed at JFK – it received reports that he had made a threat against the president. The source of this incorrect information remains unknown.  It is now clear that the US authorities knew as early as 4.29pm that: “previous reports were unsubstantiated”. But the questioning by the American secret service and FBI continued until around 9.15pm. The authorities decided to deport John, with no reason given, and with no redress.



US bars British environmentalist on allegations it admits are unfounded

The Telegraph has obtained documents that raise questions on US treatment of John Stewart, a key campaigner against Heathrow’s third runway, who the US said had threatened Barak Obama

US bars British environmentalist on allegations it admits are unfounded

Environmentalist John Stewart Photo: Ian Jones

An environmentalist who was hauled off a plane three years ago by armed US police for threatening the president remains barred from the country despite American authorities admitting the allegations were unfounded.

Official US documents obtained by The Telegraph under American freedom of information legislation have raised fresh questions over the treatment of John Stewart, who spearheaded a campaign against Heathrow’s third runway.

The planned runway was scrapped by the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition on entering office after the election.

Until now the US has refused to say why Mr Stewart, who had flown to New York to address an aircraft noise conference, was hauled off a plane by armed police when he arrived at JFK airport on Sep 29 2011.

However the information provided by the US Transportation Security Administration shows that at 2.40pm – less than an hour before Mr Stewart’s Delta Airlines flight landed at JFK – it received reports that he had made a threat against the president.

However an internal email sent by the TSA’s co-ordination centre at JFK, obtained by The Telegraph, shows that the authorities concluded as early as 4.29pm that: “previous reports were unsubstantiated”.

Nevertheless, according to Mr Stewart, questioning by the American secret service and FBI continued until around 9.15pm.

No details of when or how the threat was made were disclosed and Mr Stewart insisted that he had said nothing on the aircraft to arouse suspicion.

Then he was held by armed police officer and member of the immigration staff before being put on an overnight flight to Heathrow, which left at 11pm.

“Interestingly I was not asked anything about making threats against the president after one initial question.

“Then they started asking me about the third runway campaign at Heathrow and what I was going to say to residents’ groups in the States.” The authorities appeared to be concerned about the activities of Plane Stupid – a group which disrupted airports by an array of stunts, including breaching security at Stansted, leading to the cancellation of dozens of flights.

But, Mr Stewart had not been involved with the group, an assurance which was acknowledged by his interrogators.

“They seemed to accept the fact I was not part of Plane Stupid and had taken no part in those actions and had no criminal record,” he said.

However Mr Stewart’s name did appear on a blacklist of environmental and trade union activists compiled by a group called the Consulting Association – which was subsequently prosecuted by the Information Commissioner.

The decision was taken to deport Mr Stewart after his lengthy interrogation.

“I was simply sent back, they didn’t give me a reason and the immigration officer said she didn’t need to give me a reason,” he said.

“Individually they were quite courteous but they made clear that no reason needed to be given.” As a result of being denied entry Mr Stewart, 64, needs a visa to visit the US and had one application turned down two years ago.

“I was invited to speak at a meeting in New York in 2012.

“In the spring I went to the American embassy to get a visa to go to the USA explaining very clearly that the purpose of my trip was a well-recognised international conference.

“After a day at the embassy they said I was not going to get a visa. I asked if I was barred for ever and a day. They said no but when I asked if it was worth my asking for a visa they said not particularly.

The decision to deny Mr Stewart entry was described as “preposterous” by Debi Wagner a member of the US campaign group Aviation Justice, which issued the original invitation to Mr Stewart.

“It was embarrassing for a country like the US to treat such distinguished campaigner like a common criminal.”

Mr Stewart’s treatment was also condemned by Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International.

“What is becoming clear is that any traveller to the US can be blacklisted by a malicious claim, and even an error.

“The border is a rights-free zone. There is something feudal about being detained, questioned, found innocent, and then exiled permanently without any recourse or redress.”






Earlier, when John went to the USA, was arrested and held, and refused entry:


John Stewart, UK’s “most effective environmentalist” barred from entering US

Environmentalists from across the US and Europe are surprised and outraged that



On September 29, Stewart, who does not have a criminal record and meets the requirements
for the US Visa Waiver program, had his visa waiver rescinded mid-flight. He was
questioned by the FBI, the Secret Service, and immigration for six hours at New
York’s JFK Airport before being put back on a plane to London.

American environmental campaigners had planned a month-long speaking tour for Stewart, set to begin on October 1. Stewart had been instrumental in the
campaign to stop a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport. He had chaired the diverse coalition of neighbors, environmental activists,
fiscal conservatives, and local politicians which persuaded the Conservative government
to scrap plans for a new runway. In 2008 the Independent on Sunday voted Stewart “the UK’s most effective green activist.”

Environmentalist Bill McKibben, founder of, says that barring a community organizer from entering the
U.S. is a dangerous statement. He continued, “We need more voices, not fewer,
explaining the dangers of climate change and the rational responses we must make.
And though it’s a backhanded testament to John Stewart’s effectiveness, this is
sad news for all of us hoping to hear what he had to say.”

Stewart said, “What seemed to concern them was that I would be discussing, as
part of my talk, the role that peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience played
in the Heathrow Campaign. I wouldn’t be able to explain the campaign without doing
so. In any case, it is completely legitimate to discuss the role of an activity
which has featured so heavily in so many historical campaigns, from the American
Civil Rights Movement, to the Suffragettes’ fight for the right of women to vote
in the UK.”

Stewart has also won support from across Europe and the UK. Earlier today, Conservative
member of the British Parliament Zac Goldsmith tweeted: “Heathrow campaigner, John Stewart barred from US. A heroic campaigner, and
a gent. Utterly scandalous.”

U.S. organizers have spent over a year planning the month-long national lecture
tour on aviation and the environment, and are shocked and embarrassed at their
government’s actions. Another invited speaker, award-winning Scottish climate
activist Dan Glass, was effectively blocked from participating because his visa
application was delayed indefinitely due to special “administrative processing.”

“John Stewart is a mainstream environmentalist who we invited because of his
ability to work with everybody, and for his role in helping influence people like British Prime Minister David Cameron to choose bold green solutions,” says Barnali Ghosh, a San Francisco tour organizer.
“Americans needs to hear from more centrists who can build left-right coalitions.”
Seattle organizer Debi Wagner asks why Stewart’s visa was rescinded mid-flight. “Barring environmentalists
won’t make us any safer or healthier.”

New York organizer Dr. Frans Verhagen is outraged, but affirms that the tour will go ahead. “We will use videoconferencing to ensure that John Stewart and Dan Glass can
still address our meetings. Our lecture tour still begins in New York tomorrow,
as planned.”

Details of the tour can be found at

The Aviation Justice Express is a coalition of airport watchdog, climate action,
and sustainable transportation groups and activists. Endorsers include,
US Citizens Aviation Watch, Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, Sane
Aviation for Everyone, Shut This Airport Nightmare Down, All Aboard Washington,
AirportWatch, So We Stand, and Left Field Films.


Some comments:

It is a huge compliment to Dan and John that the US government is so terrified
of them and their viewpoint that it bans them from speaking physically to people
in the USA. It just shows how repressive the US government is and how Obama has
done nothing to change that.

I have spoken to both, particularly Dan, but wouldn’t claim to know either well.
However, I do know both well enough to know that they are no danger to the people
of the USA. If they were then that might justify the bans. They are certainly
a danger to vested interests in the US, which is why Obama’s government has banned

The land of the free? Round objects.

Be careful that Obama doesn’t interfere with telecommunications, so preventing
people in the USA from hearing Dan and John.


 I find it upsetting that a community organizer with no criminal record can be
stopped at the border and turned back.


 Whatever the intentions of the authorities, their actions will certainly backfire
on them. Stewart’s work is now getting more attention than ever here in the U.S.


By refusing John entry into the US the police have done more to highlight ‘airport
expansion’ and fuel direct action than possibly John could have done.  Well done
USA  – you mucked up again !
Smacks of Climate Camp Heathrow. The media attention because of the police action
made the campaign Global.
Well done John and you didn’t even have to go all that way.
The campaigns to highlight the problem of aviation expansion are important, because
globally the industry continues to have crazy growth plans.  Other sectors have
to cut back their emissions, but aviation intends to keep on increasing the number
of flights and passengers, ad infinitum. At huge environmental cost. Now kerosene
is getting more expensive, they plan to use biofuels.  This has immense and worrying
implications for all of us, and the campaigners are doing the US a public service
in waking them out of their slumber, to sit up and take notice of the problems
they are sleepwalking into.  The US government and the , American people, should
be very grateful for the wake up call that this US speaking tour will provide.