Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Racial Profiling on Airplanes-Detroit Incident

It's never a good thing to be accused of or questioned about something that you had nothing to do with. When the people doing the accusing or questioning have the full might of the US Federal Government behind them, it's even worse. And it's really bad when the primary reason for the accusation or questioning is not something that you did, it's how you look. I've been through some minor instances of this a few times but never anything like what recently happened to Shoshana Hebshi, a Toledo woman of Jewish-Arabic heritage.

On September 11, 2011, there was an incident at Detroit Metro Airport that made national news. Reportedly a few dark-complected men were allegedly "acting suspiciously" during a Denver to Detroit Frontier Airlines flight.  The story was that they were in the bathroom together or one was in the bathroom for too long. F-16 fighter jets were scrambled and escorted the airliner to its suburban Detroit destination.

Law enforcement personnel and bomb squad specialists surrounded the plane. Armed police stormed the plane yelling at everyone to put their heads down and their hands on the seats in front of them.

(AP) -- An Ohio woman who was one of three people taken off an airplane at Detroit's airport and questioned on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks says she was shocked when armed officers stopped at her row and ordered her off.
Shoshana Hebshi, 35, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday that she believes she was targeted because of her Middle Eastern appearance. Hebshi, who describes herself as half-Arabic, half-Jewish with a dark complexion, said she endured nearly four hours in police custody that included being forced off an airplane in handcuffs, strip-searched and interrogated.

Please read Shoshana's detailed blow-by-blow account of what happened here. It's moving stuff.

Things like this make me very angry because in my humble opinion it shows that America has succumbed to its fears. We're losing the sense that the police/government should have limits on their actions. We have implemented a sort of deliberate overreaction which is more about flaunting the power of the state over the individual than it is about stopping any terrorist attack.

I hope that the legal experts who read and/or author this blog will chime in but to this simple guy from Detroit, it seems that something has gone drastically wrong with this society when the mere whisper of suspicion can cause F-16 FIGHTER JETS to scramble, an armed team to enter a plane and an American citizen to be detained for four hours without arrest or warrant, handcuffed and STRIP-SEARCHED.

I do not think that the so-called War on Terror and the US Constitution are compatible. I am worried that if forced to choose, too many of my fellow citizens and their elected representatives will choose (have chosen?) the War on Terror. This means increasing numbers of "exceptions" to the Bill of Rights, increased militarization of the Police and politicization of the Armed Forces as their roles and duties merge, and of course ongoing "intelligence" gathering on American citizens-what websites you read, who you give political support to, what books you buy, where you travel, who your friends are, who you talk to and so on. And why would you oppose any of this? You don't want the terrorists to win do you? Do you?

For what's it worth neither Shoshana Hebshi nor the South Asian men were charged with any crime and nothing of danger was found on the plane. Evidently the dudes weren't in the bathroom at the same time either. No new members were inducted into the "mile high club" (same sex division)

1) Did anyone do anything wrong here or are these just the times we live in?
2) Would Hebshi have been within her rights to refuse to answer any questions w/o an attorney present? What would you have done?
3) If you see a group of South Asian/Middle Eastern people sitting together on an airplane do you get nervous ?(Don't answer if you're Juan Williams-got your response already)
4) Should Hebshi sue? If so whom?
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