A wise linguist once said if the opposite of pro is con then the opposite of progress must be congress. OK, so it wasn’t a wise linguist it was the bathroom wall in the Political Science building where I went to college–but it is still holds much truth.
In the last few months there have been at least two major terrorist attacks prevented from occurring on US soil by good citizens who “blew the whistle” on suspicious activity. If not for these fine Americans, Kennedy Airport might have been destroyed and there would have been an armed assault on our heroes at Ft. Dix. These whistle blowers are an essential part of our battle against terror (for those of you voting for John Edwards please substitute the words bumper sticker for the word battle above)
Seven months ago, during passenger boarding of flight leaving Minneapolis, some passengers and flight crew reported some suspicious behavior being performed by a group of passengers. The Pilots, once alerted, radioed federal marshals who escorted the group off the plane for questioning. The whistle blowers where then sued by the suspicious acting passengers.
Congressman Peter King of New York, introduced a bill to provide the whistle blowers with “immunity for reporting suspicious activities and mitigating terrorist threats relating to transportation security,” was passed. Or in non congressional human language the intent of the legislation is to cover the “assets’ of“who take reasonable action” to report suspicious activities to the authorities by providing the persons reporting the suspicious activities with immunity from civil liability. This bill not only protects the whistle blowers, but in the end protects all of us by preventing terrorist actions.
What happened after King introduced his bill was just plain silly. Former New York Mayor and Ed Koch describes what happens next. By the way Mr. Mayor, you are doing GREAT.
Koch’s Comments: Bystander tip-offs
Posted by Ed Koch
On November 20, 2006, six Muslim passengers boarded a commercial plane in Minneapolis. According to Congressman Peter King (R-NY), “While boarding, passengers and flight staff witnessed these six individuals demonstrating suspicious behavior, including not sitting in their assigned seats, but rather sitting in a configuration similar to that used by the hijackers on 9/11; requesting seat belt extenders but not using them; and speaking loudly about Osama bin Laden and the United States’ role in the death of Saddam Hussein. Concerned passengers and airline personnel properly reported this suspicious behavior, and the pilot and the Federal Air Marshall determined that the behavior warranted asking the individuals to leave the plane. When they refused, airport security and law enforcement personnel responded and removed the individuals to investigate whether a true threat existed.
”Congressman King reported this in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). He continued, “Rather than receiving praise for coming forward to protect the traveling public, the airport and airline personnel and ‘John Doe’ passengers are now confronting a civil lawsuit filed by the six individuals. This represents a startling precedent, one that could freeze the very behavior law enforcement has encouraged. If we are going to encourage the public to speak up to prevent a terrorist attack, then they must be assured that they will not face the threat of frivolous litigation.”
The letter was sent after the King amendment, intended to protect the public by providing “immunity for reporting suspicious activities and mitigating terrorist threats relating to transportation security,” was passed. In plain English, the intent of the legislation is to protect those “who take reasonable action” to report suspicious activities to the authorities by providing the persons reporting the suspicious activities with immunity from civil liability (lawsuits).
In the Minneapolis case, Congressman King stated, “…passengers on a US Airways flight reported what they saw as suspicious activity. That resulted in six imams being removed from the plane. Now, that is a matter that is going to be in litigation between US Airways and those six imams. But what is absolutely disgraceful is to find out that lawyers are coming forward and advocacy groups are coming forward to represent those imams and suing, attempting to find the identity of those passengers, those citizens who acted in good faith, who responded to their government and reported what they deemed to be suspicious activity.” The removed passengers were later allowed to board a plane and fly to their destinations. They were not indicted for any criminal activity.
In a debate on the House floor on the King amendment, the opposition argued that the immunity provided from lawsuits and damages would encourage profiling. Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) made the following argument: “I think the record is clear in this country that some people are profiled and I am wondering if people are profiled illegally, not charged with a criminal act. They absolutely should have the ability to seek redress in a court of law. What I want to do is to say that there is nothing wrong with reporting in good faith, but when it is clear that we have not defined in a good-faith language in this motion to recommit what that is, then a number of people in this country could be singled out for various and sundry reasons. And what I am saying in this motion to recommit is it sets us up to start profiling against individuals regardless of religion, custom, or what have you.
“If I am praying on a plane simply because I am afraid to fly, then I could be singled out in the eyes of someone else. So I am clear that this is speculative on people who look different; it is speculative on people who perhaps act differently. I am convinced that, knowing you [Peter King], you have not proven on the committee to be a punitive person; and the reason I say that, Mr. Ranking Member, is we should not be singling people out for personal reasons. We need to catch bad people, but we need to make sure that we are not profiling those individuals because of how they look. I mean, this is America. This is the melting pot with a rainbow.”
Mr. Thompson’s argument is ridiculous. It is the airline that makes the decision whether passengers are to be removed and barred from completing their trip. The airline can be sued and is in fact being sued by the six imams who were removed from the plane. Should passengers concerned about their safety who in good faith report suspicious activities of fellow passengers, which our government encourages, be intimidated by lawsuits that could be brought against them? I would hope not.
In the vote that followed, the King amendment providing immunity was carried by 304 votes with 121 in opposition. And guess what? In the New York delegation, 13 voted for the amendment and 16 voted no. Those voting to support the King amendment were Representatives Arcuri (D), Bishop (D), Fossella (R), Gillibrand (D), Hall (D), Higgins (D), King (R), Kuhl (R), McHugh (R), McNulty (D), Reynolds (R), Walsh (R), and Weiner (D). Those voting “no” were Representatives Ackerman, Clarke, Crowley, Engel, Hinchey, Israel, Lowey, Maloney, McCarthy, Meeks, Nadler, Rangel, Serrano, Slaughter, Towns and Velazquez — all Democrats.
Senators Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have introduced on the Senate side a companion bill “to provide immunity to individuals who report suspicious activities.” The protection afforded “would provide civil immunity in American courts for citizens who, acting in good faith, report threats to our transportation systems to appropriate law-enforcement and transportation-system officials, without fear of being sued. The bill would not protect individuals who knowingly make false statements.”
The press release of the three senators stated, “In a speech to the US Senate, Collins explained that the recent arrests in Fort Dix, New Jersey, which foiled a plot to attack and kill American soldiers, was the result of a tip from a vigilant citizen, coupled with effective coordination by state and federal law enforcement officials.”
In the Minneapolis case, the action taken against the six Muslims in removing them from the plane was based on their conduct, not on ethnic profiling. Witnessing suspicious acts and reporting them is no different than bystanders reporting suspicious activities to a district attorney, which is a privileged act. Those voting against the Peter King amendment were foolish and demonstrate that political correctness can sometimes trump reason.