CIVIL IMMUNITY FOR REPORTING SUSPECTED TERRORISM?

New Senate Legislation Aims to Protect those Who Report Suspicious Activity

Back in 2006, six Muslim imams boarding a plane in Minneapolis were reported by other passengers as suspicious when they prayed in their seats, switched seats, and asked for extensions to their seat belts. It was reported that three of the imams had checked no luggage and had only one-way tickets. Police boarded the plane and removed the imams, one of whom later asked, is it a “crime in America…to practice your faith?”

The imams sued US Airways, the Minneapolis airport and several of the passengers who had complained about them.But there was also some concern that the imams had behaved provocatively on purpose, as a way of challenging ethnic profiling. In 2009, federal district Judge Ann Montgomery allowed the suit to continue, saying “The right not to be arrested in the absence of probable cause is clearly established and, based on the allegations…no reasonable officer could have believed that the arrest of the Plaintiffs was proper.” US Airways and the airport settled out with the imams and they subsequently dropped their suit against the passengers.

Now comes new senate legislation aimed at ensuring immunity to those who report suspicious activity and to the police who respond to them. “An alert citizenry can be our first line of defense against terrorist attacks,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). “…[The passengers in Minneapolis] were acting in good faith to report suspicious activity and ended up in tangled litigation. Our laws must do more to protect individuals like these, encouraging them to report suspicious activity when they see it and promote a sense of civic duty.”

What do you think?

TB

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