Sadly, American Airlines' shabby treatment of an Arab-American Secret Service agent has not dampened the growing enthusiasm for racial profiling as a standard security measure.
Among those still supporting this dubious security tool are many who ought to know better, including Jonathan Turley, a distinguished law professor at George Washington University and frequent media commentator. Even black Americans --- who know the indignities of racial profiling better than any
other ethnic group --- have become enthusiastic supporters of the racial profiling of citizens of Middle Eastern or Arab backgrounds since Sept. 11.
American Airlines has been applauded in many quarters for its actions toward Walied Shater, 33, a seven-year veteran of the Secret Service. Donald Carty, American Airlines' chief executive, issued a statement firmly supporting the actions of the pilot in denying Shater permission to fly. The pilot became alarmed after a flight attendant searched the agent's belongings and found a book with the word "Arab" in the title. Apparently, a person who is both armed and literate poses a grave threat…
…The practice is particularly offensive because security experts already know that it's utterly ineffective. A Justice Department report on "citizen-police contacts" in 1999 concluded:
"Although African-Americans and Hispanics were more likely to be stopped and searched, they were less likely to be in possession of contraband. On average, searches and seizures of African-American drivers yielded evidence only 8 percent of the time; searches and seizures of Hispanic drivers yielded evidence only 10 percent of the time; and searches and seizures of white drivers yielded evidence 17 percent of the time…"
…Given the environment, it seems likely that security personnel and immigration officials will come to rely more and more on the crudest methods --- physical features --- to determine those most likely to present
a security risk. Since the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks were all young men of Middle Eastern or Arab heritage, the burden of intrusive searches, airline rejections and even detentions will fall
heavily on young men who share that heritage (or who look as if they do, which could include large numbers of Latinos and African-Americans.)…
…Nor was racial profiling considered after the bombing of the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma. The FBI stepped up its surveillance of right-wing hate groups, but federal authorities did not adopt a strategy of
stopping and searching all young white males entering federal buildings. Instead, the law enforcement strategy depended on old-fashioned investigation and intelligence-gathering.
Then as now, those strategies are far more effective than racial profiling.
As he sat in Seat 19B aboard American Airlines Flight 1191 to Dallas, Walied Shater said he had reason to smile. It was a work day, but he was dressed comfortably in a knit shirt, khakis and sneakers, plus he was
collecting holiday pay for volunteering to protect the president on Christmas Day, when other Secret Service agents would rather take time off.
But events were about to happen at Baltimore-Washington International Airport that would wipe the smile off Shater's face. Minutes before takeoff, the airplane broke down. Shater had to leave his seat and walk to
a gate next door to catch American Flight 363. The schedule change voided the E2 form he had filled out to carry his loaded handgun aboard the plane. He had to get another one. His troubles were about to begin.
In his first public statement since his ejection from the plane and the flurry of national news reports that followed, Shater rebutted American's contention that he was thrown off the plane for acting suspiciously and for being hostile after he was confronted for improperly filling out paperwork and not signing it.
"I was never told there was a problem with American's paperwork," Shater said.
"If someone had asked me, I could have told him that American Airlines' employees made the changes to the first form and that I was simply waiting for the gate agent to complete his portion of the second form before I completed and signed it."
Shater, an agent assigned to the Presidential Protection Division of the Secret Service, was on his way to Crawford, Tex., to guard President Bush. He would not comment directly to The Washington Post for this article. His statement, co-written by his attorney Christy E. Lopez of Relman and Associates in Washington, was provided yesterday via e-mail. Lopez said Shater believes he was pulled from the flight because he is Arab American and Muslim…
…Lopez said her client spoke out to give his version of the story and, thereby, widen the explanation of what happened aboard Flight 363: careful policing by the airline or a case of racial intolerance? Two federal
agencies, the Department of Transportation, where Shater filed his complaint, and the Secret Service, where the airline filed its complaint, are investigating.
A third organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, filed a complaint with the airline in hopes of getting an apology for removing Shater from the plane…
Anger, fear, charges of terrorism support, death threats and cries of trampled liberties are tearing at the University of South Florida as administrators there try to fire a tenured professor.
Sami Al-Arian, a 43-year-old Palestinian and associate computer-science professor, has been investigated by the FBI and the university on suspicions that he once supported Islamic extremists who may be involved in terrorism. He steadfastly denies any wrongdoing, insisting such accusations are based on old reports that have been investigated and dropped and are misunderstood when discussed out of the context.
He has never been charged with a crime or -- until now -- with breaking university rules.
But Al-Arian's alleged ties to terrorists nonetheless have caused havoc and fear on the USF campus. The climate has led school officials to conclude Al-Arian must go. And they're forcing him to fight for his job. Further aggravating USF leaders, Al-Arian has continued, against their wishes, to speak out about allegations of his past. And every time he does, the university fields more death threats.
The fight over his job has split the university. And it has gained national notoriety, becoming a touchstone for two causes that now clash at USF since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks: campus safety concerns and freedom of speech…