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GOP Victory Protects Security Informants

March 28, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The Rail and Public Transportation Security Act of 2007 passed the House yesterday, but not before a provision, staunchly opposed by the bill’s sponsor and Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Bennie Thompson (D-MS), was attached to it.

The provision is based on a bill introduced last week by Steve Pearce (R-NM). It protects citizens who report suspicious activity from lawsuits. The bill was introduced, largely, in response to an incident that took place earlier this year. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) describes the incident:

>Last November, six imams were removed from US Airways Flight 300 for what passengers described as threatening behavior. While on board, passengers reported that these men, who were traveling together, dispersed to seats throughout the plane in a formation reminiscent of the 9/11 hijackers and moved throughout the cabin to confer with one another. Additionally, they asked the flight crew for seatbelt extenders, which they then rolled up and kept under their seats for no apparent reason.

The six imams subsequently filed a lawsuit against the passengers who reported them. Pearce claims the imams are “using courts to terrorize Americans.”

Thompson objected to the provision on the House floor:

>Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, opposed the motion [to attach the informant protections] over loud objections from colleagues on the House floor, forcing several calls to order from the chair.

>"Absolutely they should have the ability to seek redress in a court of law," said Mr. Thompson, who suggested that protecting passengers from a lawsuit would encourage racial profiling.

>"This might be well-intended, but it has unintended consequences."

The Washington Times has a web-only article about the House proceedings and several right-leaning blogs (i.e. Michelle Malkin, The Jawa Report, and Hot Air.) have lauded this as “a big victory for all Americans.”

Left-leaning media outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post give no mention to this significant Republican victory.

If you think this deserves more discussion, feel free to use the comments section.

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  • Anonymous 03/28/2007 12:04pm

    This is ridiculous. Firstly, have the Imams no sensitivity toward the American public being sensitive toward highly suspicious actions on an airplane? They must understand how someone could be nervous by their behavior. Secondly, if they want to take it to court, I’m sure a reasonable judge would dismiss it based on the evidence.

    So, why must we make a law about it? It is unlikely to happen often and there isn’t any reason that someone, believing they had been racially profiled, shouldn’t have the right to press charges. It is a balance that needs to be handled case by case. Based on what I’ve read here, the Imams were being insensitive and should be humble about it.

  • Anonymous 03/28/2007 5:21pm

    What happens when a pilot or an airline decide they won’t fly groups of people, are they protected from lawsuits as well? Suspicion alone shouldn’t disqualify anyone from flying when there is a no-fly list specifically made for this purpose. If the no-fly list isn’t enough, the decision to not allow someone to arbitrarily fly should be made by the TSA (with an open process and justification), and not the airline or flight crew or the other passengers. This is a slippery slope, even with the most benign and well meaning language in the amendment, and I can’t exactly say I give Republicans the benefit of the doubt. Giving a sort of immunity to passengers who may frivolously report suspicious activity is opening the door to racial profiling by those very passengers.

    Any legislation should have tasked the TSA or another federal agency about dealing with passengers who report suspicious activity and those who really are acting suspicious at an airport.

  • Anonymous 03/30/2007 9:13am

    Wait a second.

    “Left-leaning media outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post…”?

    Left-leaning? That certainly reveals a distinct bias from the right-leaning OpenCongress.

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