It turns out the little plastic (why plastic is beyond me!) catch that snaps on to the key cylinder had broken off. It has a catch on both ends, but one was missing. Now, this isn't the kind of part that is easily located. I didn't feel like going the junkyard route because I didn't want to have to tear another liftgate apart just to get this small part and I have no idea if Ford would stock this or what the $$ would be.
Solution: I went to the local Eagle Home Center and bought a small can of PVC cement and a small paint brush (like the ones that come in water color sets). Next, I cleaned the broken part and the key cylinder and applied some PVC cement to both. Attached the clip and waited about an hour. Then another good coating to add strength. Be careful not to glue the key mechanism shut.
I let things dry real well before trying it. It works great. This was a low cost and convenient fix. I was a little nervous that the PVC cement wouldn't bond to the metal on the key cylinder, but so far so good.
I had the same problem, so I called the local Ford dealer and described the part (since I didn't know what it was called). It turned out to be a "door lock operating lever" -- the dealer stocked it and it cost just under $5. Apparently it's used on the doors as well as the liftgate. It's a poorly designed part, in my opinion, but at least it's quick and easy to replace and relatively inexpensive.
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