Target: Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Goal: Reform the terrorist watch list program to keep infants off of it.
A seven-month-old infant was identified as a “known or suspected terrorist” when passing through an airport. A lawsuit brought by the Council on Islamic-American Relations alleges that the baby was then subjected to various forms of enhanced screening, from pat-downs to chemical testing. No matter one’s position on the effectiveness of airport security, we can all agree that targeting an infant as a potential terrorist is absurd.
While many other cases of watch list based security screening are less patently unnecessary, they are equally invasive and objectionable. Anas Elhady tells in his own lawsuit how he was detained at a boarder crossing in a cold room until he fainted and his lips turned blue. National security and the safety of the traveling public are important considerations. The are not well-served, however, by profiling and detaining innocent Americans with no regard to common sense.
The proper balance between security and privacy remains elusive, but the watch list system urgently needs reform. Tell the government that infants are not terrorism threats. Tell the government that being placed on a watch list is a serious imposition and intrusion. Tell the government to reconcile necessary security with respect for the personal liberties we treasure as Americans.
Dear Senator Grassley,
Two recent lawsuits brought by the Council on Islamic-American Relations tell the story of the watch list’s inadequacy as a security mechanism. In one instance, boarder security officials reportedly stripped 22-year-old Anas Alhady of his jacket and shoes and detained him in a cold cell. He was held there until he fainted and had to be transported to a hospital. In another, somehow more disturbing case, airport security officials targeted an infant for enhanced screening, which involved pat-downs and chemical testing.
The proper balance between security and privacy remains elusive, but the watch list system urgently needs reform. Despite the need for reform attested by the abuses alleged in CAIR’s lawsuit, Gadeir Abbas told the Associated Press that “The government has engaged in a decade-long delusion that being placed on a watch list is not a big deal.” If there is any hope of reforming the watch list system, that basic assumption must change.
Being placed on a watch list causes serious disruptions. It can inflict invasive search lists on innocent infants. It can jeopardize the safety of travelers placed on it. Acknowledge that being placed on a watch list is a significant challenge. Reform the watch list to protect the public without targeting infants and other innocents.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: DAVID ILIFF