Thursday, January 8, 2009

Fear of Moslems costs JetBlue $240,000

CNN reports:

JetBlue Airways and two TSA screeners will pay $240,000 to settle an Iraqi man's claim he was denied access to a flight until he covered a T-shirt that read in English and Arabic, "We Will Not be Silent."

In the settlement, JetBlue and the TSA screeners deny any wrongdoing, saying they only wanted to resolve the 2½-year-old federal lawsuit.

But Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi who immigrated to the United States three years ago, cast the settlement as a victory, saying the payout would discourage airlines and airport security officials from imposing restrictions in the future.

ACLU attorney Aden Fine, who represented Jarrar, also called it a victory. "A $240,000 award should send a clear and strong message to all TSA officials and to all airlines that what happened here is wrong and should not happen again," he said.

The TSA screeners -- Garfield Harris and Franco Trotta -- declined comment, referring questions to their attorneys, who also declined comment, and the TSA.

TSA spokesman Christopher White, while noting that the TSA was not a party to the suit, said "There is absolutely no intention to take disciplinary action against the employees involved."

The incident occurred August 12, 2006 -- two days after the United Kingdom revealed a plot to bomb planes to the United States had been foiled. In response, the United States imposed a ban on carry-on liquids, and raised the threat level at airports.

Jarrar, now 30, said he was attempting to travel on JetBlue flight 101 from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to Oakland, California, when he was approached by TSA officers. The officers told him he'd have to cover his T-shirt.

"When I asked why, one of the TSA officers said, 'Coming into an airport while wearing a T-shirt with Arabic letters on it was equivalent to going into a bank while wearing a shirt saying, 'I am a robber,' " Jarrar said.

Jarrar said he originally refused to cover up the shirt, first asking to speak to a supervisor, and asking if there was a law prohibiting Arabic shirts.

"I said, 'I think as a U.S. resident and taxpayer, I think it's my constitutional right [to express myself],' " said Jarrar, adding the T-shirt's message was not threatening.

Jarrar said he finally relented when it became obvious he couldn't get on the plane without complying. [...]

1 comment :

  1. It never occurred to me to sue the airline that would not let me, my husband and my then baby daughter on a flight from Bermuda to the US back in 1989. They told us that my husband looked like a terrorist! (I was wearing a beret, not even a scarf!). We explained to them that terrorists never fly with their wives and children. It did not help.

    Maybe I should book a flight on Jet Blue and hope they kick me off the plane.It's a good investment.

    It happens to my sister so often that she now drives to Florida instead of flying. She says that for her, flying takes longer!

    My brother consults to Congress (on taxation) and has a special ID card from the US gov't. He told me that he still has to budget an extra 2 hours in addition to the two hours that everyone else budgets to get on a flight because he is aggressively searched each time.

    For my brother too, it is much quicker to drive to Washington from NY than to take a shuttle flight.

    I hope that Islamophobia will stop soon. I am getting tired of being trailed by security guards every time I go to the mall and of being trailed by police who too often nearly run me off of the road while trying to look inside my car (for bombs, I assume).


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