Thursday, December 02, 2004
Fear of being sued for discrimination sabotages national security
Heather MacDonald on how political correctness is endangering us all.
Currently, from immigration enforcement to intelligence gathering, government officials continue to compromise national security in order to avoid accusations of "racial profiling"—and in order to avoid publicly acknowledging what the 9/11 Commission finally said: that the "enemy is not just 'terrorism,' [but] Islamist terrorism." This blind anti-discrimination reflex is all the more worrying since radical Islam continues to seek adherents and plan attacks in the United States.
The anti-discrimination hammer has hit the airline industry most severely—and with gruesome inappropriateness, given the realities of 9/11 and the Islamists' enduring obsession with airplanes. Department of Transportation lawyers have extracted millions in settlements from four major carriers for alleged discrimination after 9/11, and they have undermined one of the most crucial elements of air safety: a pilot's responsibility for his flight. Because the charges against the airlines were specious but successful, every pilot must worry that his good-faith effort to protect his passengers will trigger federal retaliation.
The DoT action against American Airlines was typical. In the last four months of 2001, American carried 23 million passengers and asked ten of them (.00004 percent of the total) not to board because they raised security concerns that could not be resolved in time for departure. For those ten interventions (and an 11th in 2002), DoT declared American a civil rights pariah, whose discriminatory conduct would "result in irreparable harm to the public" if not stopped.
American's defense pointed out the behavioral warning signs that had led to the 11 removals. But fighting the government civil rights complex is futile; in February 2004, the airline, while vehemently denying guilt, settled the action for $1.5 million, to be spent on yet more "sensitivity training" for its employees. American's pilots were outraged. "Pilots felt: 'How dare they second-guess our decision?' " says Denis Breslin, a pilots' union official. "We just shake our heads in shame: 'How could the government be so wrong?' "
Not satisfied with just one scalp, the Transportation Department lawyers brought identical suits against United, Delta, and Continental Airlines. While maintaining their innocence, those carriers also settled, pledging more millions for "sensitivity training"—money much better spent on security training than on indoctrinating pilots to distrust their own security judgments.
In addition to individual discrimination suits, the government has continued to sic "disparate impact" analysis on anti-terror measures. One of the most destructive innovations of the rights lobby, such analysis—which assigns bigotry to neutral policies if they affect different demographic groups differently—is suicidal in a war-fighting situation. It rules out every security procedure that might actually be useful in combating Muslim terrorists, since a screening device for Muslim terrorists cannot by definition have the same effect on non-Muslims.
The skittishness of an airline executive about the possibility of behavioral profiling at American airports should be a thing of the past. Edmond Soliday, former United Airlines Vice President of Safety, lauds Israel's intense scrutiny of passengers. Soliday says he was "profiled" in Israel. "I was a single man alone, with no checked baggage, in that airport for the first time, wandering aimlessly looking for a pay phone. Security hit me." He was intensively questioned, and not just with "seven canned questions preapproved by the Department of Justice, as here." That kind of intervention found two suicide bombers in the Tel Aviv airport, who were walking on the concourse with identical gym bags but pretending not to know each other. Security sweated them and found explosives in their bags. Why don't we do what the Israelis do? I asked Soliday. "I'd be in jail in a week," he replied.