[lg policy] US:

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Feb 12 15:54:22 UTC 2010

New National Security Distraction: Arabic Language
Suzanne Ito Thursday Feb 11, 2010 10:00am

Yesterday, the ACLU filed a
behalf of Nick George, a Pomona College student who was detained and
aggressively interrogated by Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
authorities, by the FBI and by Pennsylvania police when he tried to board a
plane carrying Arabic language flash cards.

You heard right: Not liquids, not matches, not a bomb. Flash cards.

[image: bors_tsa_250x250_e3406.jpg]George, a physics major who's studying
Arabic, was pulled aside for secondary screening at the Philadelphia
International Airport as he tried to go through security. When he emptied
his pockets, the inspector saw his flash cards and he was arrested,
handcuffed, locked in a cell for hours and aggressively questioned. Because
of some flash cards.

The following exchange took place between George and a TSA supervisor who
questioned him:

*TSA Supervisor:* You know who did 9/11?
*George:* Osama bin Laden.
*TSA Supervisor:* Do you know what language he spoke?
*George:* Arabic.

At that point, the TSA supervisor held up George’s flash cards—which had
words such as "to smile" and "funny" and on them—and said: "Do you see why
these cards are suspicious?"

Ah, the smoking gun.

Here's the problem: During George's ordeal, no fewer than seven law
enforcement officers took part in detaining and questioning him. The
unnecessary arrest, detention and questioning of someone who, like George,
poses no threat to flight safety, makes everyone less safe by diverting
resources away from real

George said yesterday,<http://www.aclu.org/national-security/aclu-sues-over-unconstitutional-airport-detention-and-interrogation-college-studen>“As
someone who travels by plane, I want TSA agents to do their job to
flights safe. But I don’t understand how locking me up and harassing me just
because I was carrying the flash cards made anybody safer. No one should be
treated like a criminal for simply learning one of the most widely-spoken
languages in the world.”

One of the FBI agents who questioned him put it best, we think. At the end
of his ordeal, he said to George: “The police call us to evaluate whether
there is a real threat. You are not a real threat.”


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