Muslim secret service agent removed from flight
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group, today demanded an apology from American Airlines for removing a Muslim Secret Service agent from a flight apparently based on religious and ethnic profiling.
The agent (for security reasons, CAIR is not releasing his name) alleges that he was kicked off American Airlines Flight 363 from Baltimore to Dallas on December 25 because the captain had concerns about his identity, even though the agent went through the proper procedures for armed security personnel who are passengers. The agent's identification was subsequently checked several times by American personnel and by local police. He even offered to have the Secret Service confirm his identity.
When the agent asked to go back on the plane to retrieve his jacket, the captain said: "I don't want him back on that plane." A code denying the agent access to other flights was also allegedly entered into American's computer system.
In a letter faxed today to American Chairman Donald J. Carty, CAIR wrote: "We are concerned that American Airlines would arbitrarily deny boarding to a Muslim passenger, particularly someone who has one of our nation's highest security clearances, merely because of his religion or ethnicity. The passengers on Flight 363 would actually have been more secure had Agent ----- been allowed to board."
"All Americans are concerned about improving safety for the traveling public, but religious and ethnic profiling is not the way to make flying more secure," said CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. Hooper suggested instead that all passengers be subjected to heightened security checks, that new security screening technologies be funded and implemented and that airlines adopt strict baggage matching procedures.
CAIR asked that American Airlines clarify its policy on racial and religious profiling so that a similar incident does not occur in the future. The group's civil rights department has received more than 160 reports of airport profiling of Muslims or those who are perceived to be "Middle Eastern" since the terrorist attacks of September 11.