Civil Liberties

Security Theatre Gets Badly Out Of Hand

With the administration having announced that there were “credible” threats of anniversary attacks on the US by Al Qaeda on 9/11, everyone was admittedly a bit jumpy. The AP carried mentions of two airline incidents which caused fighter jets and security personnel to be scrambled, including this description of one relating to a Frontier Airlines flight:

Police temporarily detained and questioned three passengers at Detroit’s Metropolitan Airport on Sunday after the crew of the Frontier Airlines flight from Denver reported suspicious activity on board, and NORAD sent two F-16 jets to shadow the flight until it landed safely, airline and federal officials said.

The three passengers who were taken off the plane in handcuffs were released Sunday night, and no charges were filed against them, airport spokesman Scott Wintner said.

Frontier Flight 623, with 116 passengers on board, landed without incident in Detroit at 3:30 p.m. EDT after the crew reported that two people were spending “an extraordinarily long time” in a bathroom, Frontier spokesman Peter Kowalchuck said.

FBI Detroit spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said ultimately authorities determined there was no real threat.

“Due to the anniversary of Sept. 11, all precautions were taken, and any slight inconsistency was taken seriously,” Berchtold said. “The public would rather us err on the side of caution than not.”

In such dry terms, it sounds reasonable that people would be “on the side of caution”. Try reading instead the account of one of the three passengers cuffed and questioned — for being so suspicious as to look slightly like two guys she didn’t know who were in her aisle, both of whom committed the suspicious activity of going to the bathroom:

We had been waiting on the plane for a half hour. I had to pee. I wanted to get home and see my family. And I wanted someone to tell us what was going on. In the distance, a van with stairs came closer. I sighed with relief, thinking we were going to get off the plane and get shuttled back to the terminal. I would still be able to make it home for dinner. Others on the plane also seemed happy to see those stairs coming our way.

I see stairs coming our way…yay!
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Terror Suspects and Citizenship

Senator Lieberman says he plans to introduce a bill which would expand the provisions which already exist in law for removing U.S. Citizenship from those who serve in the military of another country, in order to also strip citizenship from anyone who acts in cooperation with a designated terrorist organization. I could, perhaps, see certain situations where this might be appropriate. If a US citizen was captured in a combat zone, fighting for some non-state-entity which had been designated a terrorist organization, I could see designating that person an enemy combatant — for the same reason that it makes sense to do so with non-citizens who are fighting U.S. forces in combat zones without belonging to the military of a specific country. Our rules for dealing with P.O.W.s don’t really work when applied to people fighting for non-state entities, since there’s no organization to eventually accept peace and end the way with terms and exchange of prisoners.

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