By now, most of you have seen the story of Shoshana Hebshi, a Jewish-Arab American, who was taken off a flight at Detroit's Metro Airport on 9/11.
In short, a nervous 9/11 traveler on Hebshi's plane reported her two Indian seatmates, not her, as suspicious because of frequent lavatory trips during the flight. On landing, the aircraft was parked in a remote spot and armed authorities boarded, removing the two men in question and Shoshana, who had nothing to do with either of the men. She was cuffed, questioned, strip searched and detained for four hours. Every passenger on the flight was questioned.
I'm not going to address the outrageousness of this incident. Instead, let's talk about its implications.
How could this have happened? If, as the TSA insists, their checkpoint procedures are effective, then why did an airport's security apparatus and the FBI react so forcefully? If they are not (and they're not), then it is time to change the procedures.
FlyersRights advocates finding the bombers, not the bombs. The time to do that is not at the end of a flight, but before the aircraft leaves the ground. Profiling that identifies potential bombers -- profiling that has nothing to do with ethnicity -- must be a part of the defense, not a random, knee-jerk reaction to unsubstantiated allegations.
The unfortunate victims on this flight were guilty of nothing more than Flying While Brown. Since 9/11, ignorance and misguided paranoia have combined to inspire senseless hate crimes all over America against people who wish only the same peace and safety all Americans desire. This was not a hate crime, but another manifestation of the unreasoned fear that has infected this country since that fateful day.
Shoshana's ordeal illustrates a fundamental failing of current air travel security measures: They rely on procedures that trample the Constitution. Unlimited power is routinely bestowed on people of limited capability. This incident was triggered not by the TSA, but by local airport security personnel. An entire airplane load of people was needlessly detained, and three innocent people were subjected to unconscionable indignities and humiliation.
If any of us are swept up by these people with unlimited power, there is nothing we can do. We have no protection whatsoever from the same jail cell and strip search that Shoshana endured. You may think, "this won't happen to me," but according to the MSNBC there were 50 similar incidents across the country on 9/11/11.
We can only fix this problem by implementing real security and eliminating Security Theater.
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