Would protect airline passengers who report, in good faith, suspicious activity
While apparently the behaviors of the 6 imams aboard US Airways Flight 300 on the November 20, 2006, only resembled those of the 9/11 hijackers, were the passengers and crew supposed to only pray that there was no danger?
House Republican Steve Pearce, of New Mexico, does not think so. On Thursday, he introduced the Protecting Americans Fighting Terrorism Act of 2007. The Washington Times reports the measure was introduced:
“…a week after a lawsuit was filed by a group of Muslim imams who were taken off a US Airways flight in November. It is “unconscionable” that those who report suspicious activity could be “terrorized in our own court system in our own country,” Mr. Pearce said on the House floor yesterday afternoon…
Mr. Pearce called the lawsuit “an injustice against Americans who were simply trying to protect themselves…These brave citizens should be recognized as heroes for their efforts to report suspicious activity, particularly activity that has been associated with previous terror attacks.”
The bill is co-sponsored by: Rob Bishop of Utah, Dan Burton of Indiana, Geoff Davis of Kentucky, Trent Franks of Arizona, John Kline of Minnesota, Thaddeus G. McCotter of Michigan, Howard McKeon of California, Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, Lynn A. Westmoreland of Georgia and Frank R. Wolf of Virginia:
“…This lawsuit makes me wonder exactly what CAIR and the imams are looking to do with their suit,” Mr. Shuster said. “The inclusion of bystanders as defendants in this lawsuit is a clear indication that the imams don’t want to right a wrong; they want to make a statement.”
The statement by the 6 imams’ lawyer makes obvious the lawsuit aims to intimidate passengers from reporting suspicious activity:
Omar Mohammedi, a member of CAIR and the imams’ attorney [said], “The imams have the right to face their accusers if they purposely made false reports with the intent to discriminate against the imams.” *
* Author’s note added 3/25/07: The 6 imams were held for questioning for a few hours and released without charge so they were never “accused” of anything. If they had been charged and went on trial, the right to face their accusers would be applicable. Nor do they provide factual evidence in their lawsuit of “false reports” for none of the witnesses have been crimimally charged with that offense.
Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, said yesterday:
“As a Muslim, this is not the way to approach our civil rights; this is not the way to build bridges. It’s the most anxiety-laden area in the world right now, the airports and the gates. It is the frontline in the War on Terror. It is not a right to fly; it’s a privilege. The airlines have a huge, huge burden, especially the captain. He has to make some immediate, quick decisions as to whether the flight is safe. And he [speaking of the captain of the November 20, 2006, US Airways flight 300, who is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit] acted upon some things. The imams claim this was about prayer. You know people are not used to or had that much contact with Muslims. Certainly, it is important for people to get educated but to intimidate people and to push your faith in front of them and then to demand equality is completely ignorant about how to build bridges… This is not about prayer. Nobody said anything before they went on the plane.”
We loudly applaud the bill’s introduction yet note it does not extend similar protection to the flight crews. Still, the measure is a tremendous first step and we thank Representative Pearce and the bill’s ten co-sponsors.
If someone acts like a terrorist — even if it is only an act — they ought to be treated like one. The witnesses to such behavior and those responsible for security, like witnesses and authorities testifying about a crime after the fact, must be protected from civil liability.
The crew and passengers who tackled and subdued “shoe-bomber” Richard Reid did not stop to consider his civil rights, thank God.