SCREEN ‘EM, DANO
by David Sisler
Is there anyone who remembers September 11, 2001, who forgets the identity of the 19 murderers who hijacked American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77, and United Airlines Flight 93?
You may not recall the names of Mohammed Atta, Abdul Aziz al Omari, Satam al Suqami, Wail al Shehri, Waleed al Shehri, Marwan al Shehhi, Fayez Banihammad, Mohand al Shehri, Ahmed al Ghamdi, Hamaz al Ghamdi, Khalid al Mihdhar, Majed Moqed, Hani Hanjour, Nawaf al Hamzi, Salem al Hamzi, Saeed al Ghamdi, Ahmed al Nami, Ahmad al Haznawi, Ziad Jarrah, but you know that they were all men of obvious Middle Eastern descent.
That airline security measures then in effect were inadequate is not in dispute. Those who would cry “hind-sight is 20/20” totally dismiss the fact that weapons were allowed on airplanes and men traveling without photo identification were allowed to board airplanes.
Today you may be denied boarding if you are carrying finger nail clippers with an attached nail file. And your photo identification is checked multiple times. Good proceedures, as far as they go.
Nevertheless, the official policy of the Department of Transportation remains committed to ignoring the racial background of the September 11 murderers. DOT continues to fail to endorse racial profiling in airport security checks. A Wall Street Journal editorial of July 23, 2004 states, “[That] policy reduces the government’s credibility among ordinary Americans who understand that the policy defies common sense.”
Is there any indication that al Qadia has ceased its plans to bring future terrorist attacks to the United States? Is there any indication that al Qadia has stopped recruiting men from indigenous Middle Eastern populations? Then why does the official policy of the United States of America continue to ignore the obvious?
In that same WSJ editorial, the editors said, “[DOT] Commissioner John Lehman noted at one hearing that any airline that set aside more than two Middle Eastern-looking passengers for secondary security clearing at any one time still faces large anti-discrimination fines.”
Well, Robert R. Johnson Jr., director of public affairs for the DOT, says that ain’t so. “Our policies and procedures,” he told the WSJ on August 10, “are not based on the proposition that there are any ethnically driven limits on how many passengers from a particular flight can be subjected to heightened security screening.”
If that is true, and call me skeptical for being a disbeliever, why was Delta Air Lines ordered, by the DOT, to spend $900,000 over the next two years to provide “civil rights training to its pilots, flight attendants, and passenger service agents”? In spite of Mr. Johnson’s denial, Delta was charged with violating the civil rights of a select group of passengers. In plain English, they were charged with racial profiling.
Delta denies the charges that it violated federal law by removing from flights or denying boarding to “persons [who] were, or were perceived to be, of Arab, Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian descent and/or Muslim.” The carrier says its actions were based solely on safety and security concerns.
Delta, which is facing bankruptcy, and has asked its pilots to give back one-third of their salaries, gave up almost $1,000,000 because it was cheaper than fighting the Department of Transportation.
Similar “victories” have been won by the DOT against United, American, and Continental. Knowing how vigilant the DOT is, will that make you feel safer when you next check in at your flight departure gate? I doubt it.
In late 2002 I flew home from Chisnau, Moldova through Frankfurt, Germany. Our plane into Germany was late and we were hustled via a private bus to the Delta counter. I was personally examined by three security agents who continually made eye contact with me and asked me detailed security questions. Another man traveling with me was examined by five agents. Tight security? Absolutely. But my wife’s husband was preparing to board that aircraft, and he did not mind at all. In fact, he appreciated the extra care.
The last time I flew out of Moscow, I was examined by two trained security agents. My luggage was x-rayed three times before it went into the baggage hold of Delta 31.
One brief aside: When was the last time you heard of a hijacking or a hijack attempt against Israel’s state airline, El Al? Was it the Entebbe, Uganda hijacking of 1976, which, since that time El Al has instituted the most stringent security procedures of any publically flown airlines in the world? Quite simply, if you don’t pass muster with their security agents, you can scream “ACLU” until you are blue in the face, and you still won’t get on the plane. Friend, you won’t even get an apology. But the rest of us will fly as safe as security measures can make us.
But to return to my point, a few weeks ago, I flew from Columbia, SC to Pittsburgh, PA. I was asked no questions. Other than a cursory glance at my driver’s license – which under oath no security agent who looked at it could have told you more than my name, if that much – security was laughable. I dropped my luggage at curb-side check-in. They no longer even ask me if I packed my own baggage. Back when they did ask, they didn’t look at me when I answered.
Paul Harvey says, “You can run, but you can’t hide.”
I say, and I’m sure I heard someone else say it first, “The inmates are in charge of the asylum.”
Islamic terrorists are committed to destroying our nation. We know it. We know who they are. Their goals have not, and will not change. For us to ignore that, and fail to make our citizens and legitimate visitors to this nation as safe from them as is humanly possible, is stupid. It is criminal. Until we give air security the tools they need – and that includes racial profiling – we all remain in grave danger.
Copyright 2004 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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