Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Protecting "John Does"

From this article in the May 2, 2007 edition of the Washington Times:
Key Republicans are lobbying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to protect legislation that prohibits airline passengers from being sued if they report suspicious behavior that foreshadows a terrorist attack.

Republican leaders used a procedural motion to insert that provision into a transportation-safety bill last month, but House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, has threatened to bar from becoming law all language entered into bills under such "motions to recommit."
What has brought this issue to the fore, of course, is the case of the six praying imams on November 20, 2006. On that date, both passengers and crew aboard a U.S. Airways flight deemed suspicious the behavior of the imams, who were removed from the flight. On March 12, 2007, with CAIR's backing, a lawsuit was filed, and "John Doe" passengers were named in the law suit.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who represents the 5th Congressional District in Maryland, recently met with the Muslim Brotherhood. Excerpt from this piece at Little Green Footballs:
Visiting House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer met with the head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc, Mohammed Saad el-Katatni, twice on Thursday — once at the parliament building and then at the home of the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, said Brotherhood spokesman Hamdi Hassan.
Hoyer, of course, voted against H.R. 1640:
House Republicans tonight surprised Democrats with a procedural vote to protect public-transportation passengers from being sued if they report suspicious activity -- the first step by lawmakers to protect "John Doe" airline travelers already targeted in such a lawsuit.

After a heated debate and calls for order, the motion to recommit the Democrats' Rail and Public Transportation Security Act of 2007 back to committee with instructions to add the protective language passed on a vote of 304-121.
Returning now to the article cited at the beginning of this blog article:
The amendment sponsored by Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican and ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee provides civil-liability protection to individuals who act in good faith and report suspicious activity that could predicate a terrorist attack or other threat to the traveling public.

"In light of the overwhelming support from the American public and House members, and despite opposition from a majority of House Democrats, we seek your commitment to retain the King Amendment in rail and mass-transit security legislation adopted in any conference report for H.R. 1 and S. 4," said the letter to Mrs. Pelosi.

"Your commitment to recognize the vote of more than 300 members is particularly important in light of Majority Leader Hoyer's comments that Republican additions to bills can be removed easily in conference committee," the letter said. The effort passed on a vote of 304-121, with 105 Democrats siding with all 199 Republicans who voted.

The letter was signed by Mr. King, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio, Steve Pearce of New Mexico, Minority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri, Adam H. Putnam of Florida, Eric Cantor of Virginia, Mark Souder of Indiana, Mike Rogers of Alabama, Michael McCaul of Texas, Bill Shuster and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Dan Lungren of California and Dave Reichert of Washington.

"Open lines of communication are critical to both passenger security and our collective national security, and attempts to stifle such speech don't serve the interests of the American people," Mr. Boehner said. "We would certainly hope that Democratic conferees take this very seriously and let sound policy not partisan politics be the arbiter of what ends up in this conference report."


"Since the tragic attacks on September 11, federal, state and local agencies have called upon the public to remain vigilant in their daily lives promoting a 'see something, say something' culture," the letter said.
The day after 9/11, in a state of heightened alert while I was driving to work, I saw a man tinkering with some kind of device on an overpass near my home. I reached for my cell phone and dialed 9-1-1. The officer on the other end of the line asked me, "What did he look like? Was he a Middle Easterner?" I hadn't noticed! All I saw was a man fooling around with something on the overpass, and when I had glanced at the car parked on the side of the road, it didn't have government-issued license plates. I have no idea as to what law enforcement did in response to my call, but the officer assured me that I had done the right thing by making that call.

That evening, when I told my neighbor, a retired police officer, how paranoid I felt when I reported my observation, he said something I've never forgotten: "Reporting suspicious activity is what every good citizen should have been doing all along — not just since Tuesday."

In my view, no citizen should even have to think about the possibility of a law suit when that citizen is exercising vigilance. Though my neighbor didn't say so, I'm certain that he knew this quotation attributed to Thomas Jefferson: "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance."

[Other quotations about liberty and freedom]

Note: Raven also posted on this. Don't miss her take!

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posted by Always On Watch @ 5/02/2007 08:00:00 AM