For our protection

Security officials, as well as passengers, should be kept safe

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Americans are expected to be ever more vigilant, now that al-Qaida promises to retaliate for Osama bin Laden's death.

But will citizens who report their concerns be protected from lawsuits if their reports turn out to be unfounded?

Will authorities who act on those reports also be protected?

It seems to us that observant Americans deserve immunity from lawsuits if they make sincere and honest concerns known to authorities. And public and private officials who act on those reports should be immune from retribution as well.

Americans trying to keep the country safe shouldn't have to fear civil retaliation as much as they fear the terrorists. They should have blanket immunity for acts of good citizenship.

It's similar to "Good Samaritan" laws that hold people harmless for rendering aid in emergency situations.

A rash of recent evacuations and airline incidents seems to indicate that reports of suspicious packages and behaviors are already escalating. Such worries, which used to be confined mostly to air travel, have expanded to all forms of mass transit since it became known that bin Laden was hoping to stage a rail assault around the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Indeed, a Dallas light rail station was evacuated Saturday after the report of a suspicious man asking others to carry packages for him. New York also saw two rail incidents and an SUV bomb scare over the weekend. Several flights were diverted after security scares.

At Denver International Airport, several men were arrested and security lines halted after a man was seen recording a video of three others in the security line. Two of the men had neither IDs nor boarding passes.

The summer travel season kicks off later this month. The jittery season is in full swing now.

That means we're all going to have to be more patient and accommodating, especially those travelers who are innocently, and perhaps mistakenly, put into question.

It's a delicate balance, to be sure -- and while asking us to be more vigilant, the government doesn't offer much in the way of guidance. This is the same government that is wanding children and checking in diapers -- for what, the next underwear bomber?

And regular citizens are at risk for reporting legitimate concerns?

The best advice is just to use common sense. No one is suspect because of his or her skin color, accent or dress. While being more attentive, we must also be discerning.

Yet, if something sets off alarm bells, we would hope the innocent among us would be understanding -- and that well-intended suspicions don't come with reprisals.

When six imams were taken off a plane in Minneapolis several years ago, they sued not only the airline but the passengers who reported the imams' odd behavior -- which included, according to the Associated Press, the fact that "the men were seen praying and chanting in Arabic as they waited to board. Some passengers also said that the men spoke of Saddam Hussein and cursed the United States; that they requested seat belt extenders with heavy buckles and stowed them under their seats; that they were moving about and conferring with each other during boarding; and that they sat separately in seats scattered through the cabin."

We've got to figure this out. We can't have people afraid of reporting honest suspicions.

We all deserve to be protected -- especially those trying to protect us.

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scgator
1042
Points
scgator 05/10/11 - 11:32 pm
0
0
I can understand these

I can understand these things; We are flying to Ohio soon to visit our kids, and as someone with significant medical history, I will need to take all of my meds and insulin supplies with me......this should be a delight.

LauraE
0
Points
LauraE 05/11/11 - 12:12 am
0
0
Not too long ago my

Not too long ago my neighborhood started having a problem with teenagers walking down our street at night and doing drug deals. To top it off, there were a lot of vehicle break ins. So we formed a neighborhood watch association. Four times I called the police for different incidents related to those kids, all four times the response time was 30 minutes or more. By then the kids already bolted. the next day after the fourth call, the Chief of police called me at home and threatened to have me charged with filing false reports. Luckily, several of my neighbors had also witnessed the suspicious activity, and came forth in my defense.
This OPED brings to light that when a person reports something, it is important to take their claims very seriously. In the case of national security, it's even more important. Someone else might not have the benefit of video or a witness to back up their claim, but that doesn't make it any less deserving of a careful investigation.

Riverman1
84011
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Riverman1 05/11/11 - 08:17 am
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0
I'll go against the grain

I'll go against the grain here. Those Muslim clerics had passed two checks before boarding the plane. They did nothing wrong on the planes except in the imagination of the others. The pilot was wrong to kick them off.

fd1962
26
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fd1962 05/11/11 - 08:27 am
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Where damages result, an
Unpublished

Where damages result, an unfounded report should always be the focus of a civil lawsuit should the severity warrant. It's called a precedent of English common law. Nothing the ACES would like more than to conduct the role of community honesty and sincerity panel - especially if they were MORE immune from retribution than you or me. What a joke.

fd1962
26
Points
fd1962 05/11/11 - 10:21 am
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Really now, Retired Army, you
Unpublished

Really now, Retired Army, you can't expect the ACES to cheerfully abandon their stock-in-trade. Fear is their franchise after all, and God blessed them too.

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