6 imams

Police unions backing ‘John Doe’ protections

The “tough on terror” Democrats are still stalling legislation that would protect those who say something when they see what looks like terrorist activity. Law enforcement unions are trying to break the logjam:

Police unions are offering lobbying muscle to push for language in a bill that would protect rail and airline passengers who report suspicious activities from being sued. The support is concurrent with similar legislation introduced in the New York state Assembly last week to ban such lawsuits in state courts.

Police unions say their officers cannot be everywhere to see everything and stop every crime. They offered their support in letters to Rep. Steve Pearce, New Mexico Republican and author of language added to a rail- and transportation-safety bill to protect airline passengers from lawsuits.

A pending lawsuit filed by a group of Muslim imams targets passengers named as “John Does” who reported that the men acted suspiciously, which resulted in their removal from a U.S. Airways flight.

“Now that our nation is engaged in a global war on terror, it is even more important for citizens to feel that they can report suspicious activity to law enforcement and have that information be used appropriately and in good faith by law enforcement or security personnel,” said Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.

“Such lawsuits are clearly being used to intimidate witnesses, and it is altogether appropriate that Congress protect them from these frivolous suits,” Mr. Canterbury said. “Doing the right thing should not get you hauled into court.”

The federal bill, stalled in a conference committee, provides immunity from civil liability for airline passengers who report suspicious behavior in good faith.

Bennie Thompson vs. terrorism tipsters

From today’s Washington Times:

For two months, Mr. Thompson has deployed the profiling argument against this measure, tucked into the House transportation-security bill. The good news is that a bipartisan House majority already passed it 304-121 seven weeks ago. But sadly, Mr. Thompson is expected to strip it from the bill. He is expected to be the lead House negotiator in the coming weeks when the bill reaches conference committee, and if he is, he will have considerable sway over the final product.

Mr. Thompson would stand alone among key homeland-security players, all of whom support immunity, if he blocks it. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the Connecticut Democrat who chairs the Senate committee and ranking Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, both support it. So does Rep. Peter King, New York Republican, the ranking member in the House homeland-security committee.

How damaging it would be to leave tipsters on the hook; there could be few better ways to staunch the flow of information. Think of last week’s Fort Dix tipster and ask yourself whether you would report suspicious behavior in a similar position.

The cutting edge of this debate, the case of the anonymous U.S. Airways passengers in Minneapolis, is not encouraging. These passengers observed six imams refuse to sit in their assigned seats, request metal-bearing seatbelt extensions and speak loud condemnations of the United States. After frightened passengers reported this behavior, the imams were removed from the flight. Troublemakers are routinely removed for less. But the “John Does” were sued along with the airline and regulatory authorities.