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July 16, 2004

Update on Fly the Terrorist-Friendly Skies

Michelle Malkin has updates on the story; she's confirmed through sources that most of the story is true.

People seem to be focusing on whether these were actual terrorists participating in a "dry run."

This seems borderline irrelevant to me. For my part, I actually doubt that these were actual terrorists. I'm nowhere near certain of that; I just doubt it, based on simple probablility. Of all Syrians behaving strangely on a plane, only a small fraction will actually be terrorists.

But that's not really the point. The point is that these men were in fact behaving strangely enough to alarm the captain, the crew, and most passengers on the plane, and nothing was done about it.

The article mentions the claim that there were sky-marshals aboard. Fine-- but they didn't do anything. Now, I think that the sky-marshals themselves shouldn't actually act until there's clear reason to act -- they'd like to keep their identities hidden, for deterrent value and tactical surprise -- but I don't see why the plane's crew didn't have a word with the men and tell them firmly that they must remain in their seats, and only move about the cabin with the permission and escort of a stewardress.

And why wasn't that bathroom searched after each man had visited it?

It seems to me that the entire air-crew was somewhat alert to the threat of a hijacking. But that's not really the most likely threat anymore. I suggest that hijacking a plane would be very difficult indeed in 2004. But assembling a bomb in a bathroom, with small parts smuggled aboard by a troop of men, would not be very difficult at all.

Especially since no one on this plane apparently took any steps at all to disrupt these men's movements and actions.

Suppose these men weren't terrorists, as seems most likely. Fine. It seems they were acting more suspiciously than genuine terrorists would be likely to act (some take this fact as evidence they weren't terrorists).

If an aircrew isn't going to take any steps to insure security when a bunch of Syrian Muslims, who aren't terrorists, behave strangely on a plane, I think we can safely say that they also won't take any steps when a bunch of foreign Muslim men, who are terrorists, behave slightly less strangely (but still suspiciously).

If this is the current state of on-board airplane security, I think we need to all brace for a series of horrific bombings this summer and fall.

This is political correctness run amok. I don't want to make life uncomfortable for peaceable Muslims. I don't want to "humiliate" them. But there must be a limit to our regard for their feelings. A little humiliation is a rather small concern compared to the very lives of 200-400 innocent human beings.

What the hell: Let the government announce pre-determined penalties which it will pay to those unjustly detained or arrested or searched under suspicion of terrorism. And let the government pay these amounts out, after proof in a quasi-judicial hearing of innocence. Set the amounts from $5,000-25,000 depending on the obtrusiveness of the actions taken.

And then start searching such people, and restricting the movements of people "behaving strangely" and in concert.

If they're found to be innocent-- if the worries were unfounded -- give them $5,000 or so to ease their "humiliation."

But we cannot continue under the current system, where airlines refuse to take prudent steps because our society is determined to punish them -- through lawsuits and even possible civil rights prosecutions by the state -- for taking such prudent actions.

Update: KevinK objects:

If it's worth $5000.00 to $25,000.00 to act a little strange on a flight and arouse suspicion, then welcome to the screwy skies.

First of all, let me say I high-balled it there. Maybe $500 - $5,000 (the latter for borderline malicious measures) would be more reasonable.

But I wasn't talking about some automatic "I behave screwy, you subject me to heightened scrutiny, you pay me" regime, which would admittedly be, um, idiotic.

The money would only be paid out based on a showing of a negligent, malicious, and/or unreasonable degree of scrutiny.

I'm offering this in its positive form -- we'll pay x amount for such an unreasonable detaining. I think this is the best way to sell it politically.

And, as most "best ways to sell it politically" tend to be, it's a little disingenuous.

I'm being coy about the negative formulation-- you can't sue for millions based upon such a detainment. You'd be restricted to small-bore payouts, and only upon proof of some degree of unreasonable behavior by the airline or TSA.

Airline security measures would be immunized against most suits, except for proof of an extremely unreasonable search/questioning/detaining/"humiliation", and such suits would have to be certified as being likely to succeed on the merits by some sort of panel.

A bit like Bush's proposed HMO reforms.

The idea is that you'd limit the payoffs to persons so "humiliated." They could get small amounts upon some showing of unreasonableness, but they would be precluded from suing for jackpot-type awards unless there was some seriously egregious, malicious conduct by the airline.

Basically it would be a partial insulation against suits based on racial profiling. Which is for the best.


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posted by Ace at 02:50 PM

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