Virginia criminal defense lawyer on the need to protect against civil liberties incursions from airport security

Is airport security being told — or feeling emboldened — to further profile Muslims?

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Mar 11, 2017 Is airport security being told — or feeling emboldened — to further profile Muslims?

Is airport security being told — or feeling emboldened — to further profile Muslims?

A starting point for this question might be the recent airport detention and subsequent stop of late boxing champion Muhammad Ali’s namesake son on his return from Jamaica in February 2017, and on March 10, 2017, at National Airport near Washington, D.C., when returning to Florida from criticizing Donald Trump and the Department of Homeland Security before Congress members one or two days earlier.

Here is the tale from both sides:

According to the TSA, Ali Jr. arrived at the check-in counter at Reagan National, at which time ‘a call was made to confirm Mr. Ali’s identity with TSA officials.’ After 11 minutes, he was eventually cleared and sent to the security checkpoint. At the checkpoint, Ali Jr.’s ‘large jewelry’ set off the scanner and he was patted down by agents. After a seven-minute screening he was cleared to catch his flight.

In a phone interview Friday, Ali Jr.’s lawyer, Chris Mancini, told the Courier-Journal the phone call at the ticket counter lasted 20 minutes and called the TSA statement a ‘pack full of lies.’ Mancini said Ali Jr. was trying to get his boarding pass when the computer ‘flagged’ him. The ticket agent rejected his Illinois state-issued ID and put Ali Jr. on the phone with the Department of Homeland Security. Ali Jr. was asked over the phone to verify his date of birth and where he was born. He was not asked about his religion.”

The September 11, 2001, murders have continued to be used as an excuse to make ours more of a national security, terrorist-hunting state than ever. This incident would not likely have happened before September 11. Likely adding to the fire is President Trump’s constant haranguing about “radical Islamic terrorists”, xenophobic language, and ban on visitors from six predominately Muslim nations.

If the airline ticketing agent questioned Ali’s presented state-issued identification, I wish to know why. What role are private corporate airlines playing with federal airport security beyond what the law requires?

While it is hopefully farfetched that Ali was being singled out for his criticism this week of Trump and DHS — after all, as a United States citizen, he would eventually be cleared for travel, and unlikely to be placed on a no-fly list — the question arises whether he was singled out for his Muslim name, and why he was questioned about his religion.

If someone as high-profile as boxing champion Muhammed Ali’s son is being treated this way at airports, how much worse are more anonymous airport travelers being treated?

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