I am not a terrorist, why am I being detained?

News Review article by:  Scott Hall
Common sense by: Joe or Joanna Citizen
            I can remember as a child, my parents and I on occasion would go to our local airport, sit in the observation / passenger offloading area and just watch those large beautiful pieces of transportation take off and land.  The many memories I possess of that time are full of wonderment, awe, and good times, then, on a clear September day in 2001, a group of individuals set out to bring about change, bring about fear and bring about paralysis to a nation unaware of what was to be an terrible tragedy to an uncounted and counted mass of persons.  As with any major event in history, once such a tragedy unfolds, many work toward prevention and analysis so that future generations may not have to endure the same hardships that resulted from the event.  9-11-2001, did the very same with a whole list of new things many generations feel are infringing upon their rights to just simply live and let live, or a “I should not even be glanced at because I haven’t done or don’t do anything wrong, so why am I being targeted” point of view.  This article will attempt to answer some of those questions and should bring some clarity as to “why” indeed.

            Many citizens here in the United States are aware that some of police work involves searching for evidence and being able to recognize signs of reasonable suspicion and use that judgment to determine probable cause to continue to investigate further, or to choose to drop the inquiry and let the citizen on their way and though in some cases the citizen may feel “violated, harassed, or unjustly accused” the intention of the officer is quite the opposite.  A news story posted on yahoo (September 14, 2011 AP News story, Ohio woman’s 9/11 airport ordeal) revealed that a lady and two passengers were detained due to suspicious circumstances.  The lady in the article stated she felt “violated and humiliated” by being detained, asked to strip down so she could be searched (was done by a female officer), questioned and then released, all because of how she presented her appearance, never mind the two gentleman whom repeatedly went to the restroom for extended periods and acted suspiciously as well, the focus of this was about how she felt due to a process of investigation that is a direct result of circumstances and well known changes in our security.  The lady mentioned in this article had reportedly “tweeted” several things as well as had plenty to say about it on her blog posts.  In order to help us understand what may have proceeded, we need to know why she would be targeted out of all the passengers aboard and try to understand what protocol took place.  This article will in no way directly reflect what the airline’s stance is, nor will it speak for the person’s involved, but we will attempt to expand on what some of the guidelines associated with this case may have been applied, it’s critical thinking time.

            Here is a quote from the article, from the lady involved in the incident:
"I really wasn't paying attention," said the lady, a freelance writer, editor and stay-at-home mother of twin six-year-old boys who lives in a suburb of Toledo, Ohio. "I was minding my own business — sleeping, reading, playing on my phone.”
While she was doing this, two men whom were seated near her location repeatedly were up and down, based on observations from others, which led to having fighter jets escort the plane to the airport, having law enforcement surround the aircraft, removing three passengers whom security officials deemed a potential threat.  Thank goodness these three were not shoe bombers, underwear bombers or any kind of plotters that would bring harm, all kidding aside, what they were, suspects.  This will be our first approach, what makes someone “suspect”.

            A suspect is someone who is under suspicion plain and simple, right?  What constitutes suspicion is what you or someone else observe as odd or out of the ordinary behavior in an certain environment that may be implicated as criminal, that is my opinion, but the definition of suspicion(education.yahoo.com) is: 
1)      The act of suspecting something, especially something wrong, on little proof or evidence.
2)      The condition of being suspected, especially of wrong doing.
In this case that is mentioned in the online article, in relation to our definition, is it possible that when this particular person was fooling around with her phone, that the men’s timing of getting up and down could have drawn suspicion, or, possibly aroused curiosity as to the circumstances in that part of the aircraft. Absolutely!  We have all observed situations in our daily lives that make us raise an eyebrow as to the circumstances or walked into a store where someone’s outfit or presentation of behavior and actions, makes them stand out more than others.  Even if it is wrong, it happens and is a result of our own suspicions, let alone those whom are training or have been trained to identify a set of parameters and react.  So, in short, the crew or others observed situations that seemed suspicious and reported those circumstances to the authorities.  The authorities needed to know if the threat was real, so they had probable cause to surround the craft and remove the suspects.

     Probable cause means: Reasonable grounds for belief that an accused person may be subject to arrest or the issuance of a warrant. (education.yahoo.com.)  Not just in this case, but in every case of detention by security officials, there is probable cause especially if what one does or carries meets the parameters of the guidelines they use, and have suspicion. This gives the officers the right to detain the subject to investigate further and insure everyone’s safety.  We simply must ask our self, if it were me being detained, would I feel the same if asked to strip down and be subject to a search for potentially harmful weapons or items. Most citizens would protest, others would reluctantly agree, some will blog and tweet about how bad it was, and the rest will move forward accepting the parameters were met.  If one were found guilty or in possession of said items, they would be arrested, if found innocent they let me go, and all that is needed is a bit of cooperation with law enforcement.  In this case mentioned in the article, it seems the foundation of probable cause was lengthy restroom visits, not by the lady, but by the other two subjects.  Could a situation where someone is on phone, reading (maybe with head down) or whatever other observations, coincide with two others behaviors and be deemed suspicious enough to have probable cause to have them investigated?  Certainly and the next step at this point, once the subjects are away from the rest of the public is investigation and interrogation, after all, we want to know why a person who dressed a certain way or behaved in an odd manner would do such a thing.  The answer, in the name of safety for everyone, now, if I were to bring a bomb on board a plane, knowing I may be subject to search either before or after (hopefully) being on a flight, where would I hide it?  The pat down process is the next answer after detention.

     Safety for all is a particular focus for law enforcement and as one can imagine, at times is very difficult.  The task sounds simple, find the “bad stuff” and secure our nation.  Most citizens are not criminally minded although many of us in certain situations may have said, “I’d like to see that place burn down.” But the fact remains, a few worldly and domestic citizens are seeking ways to destroy or kill those they deem a target and evolve to try and stay ahead of law enforcements attempts to thwart them.  How we stop them is prevention and investigation into tactics that are known and that includes those that may reside in the gray area of life, for instance, in certain gangs colors represent groups and areas of control, so what happens if you happen to end up in a neighborhood with the wrong color on? You become suspect and those within start to secure their environment and may stop you (heaven forbid). 

     A bit extreme, but none the less truer than a detention with search in a secure environment, that included a pat down of gender specific officer present and questioning which led to their release.  I admit, I would be somewhat embarrassed about standing in my skivvies in front of a total stranger, but violated seems a bit extreme in its cause in this article.  What the pat down is supposed to do is reveal oddities not normally encountered, pockets bulging, knife under a belt, and as we all know, the hilarity of an underwear bomb.  Yes, that incident itself caused a change in searches, got to check the undies, like it or not, it’s going to happen as it is a protocol they must use. Now that we have stepped through the door of seeing ourselves standing in front of a law enforcement officer in our skivvies, we should be clear as to why this happens.  Some poor individual decided to stuff his undergarment with explosives and another poor person tried to stuff their shoes to do it, and now as we wade through crowds of people waiting to catch our ever important flight, we will have to be screened bare foot and right down to our Hanes

     Another excerpt from our online article, this toward the end of the article:

The woman said that finally, after being fingerprinted and allowed to call her husband, she was told she and the men were being released and that nothing suspicious was found on the plane. She said an official apologized and thanked her for understanding and cooperating.
The woman said she received another call of apology from an FBI agent Monday, before she wrote her blog post.
"I can understand they were just doing their job," she told the AP. "My beef is with these laws and regulations that are so hypersensitive. ... Even if you're an innocent bystander, you have no rights.”

            Once we look through the mind’s eye into a situation taken as a rights violation, it is possible to rationalize feasible outcomes.  In this particular news article, we can apply practicality of practice in police procedure (nice tongue twister eh?) and see that she was not violated, nor abused but subject to the guidelines that are set forth in order to continue to protect our nation from atrocities.  Atrocities that are very real and ongoing, even as the anniversary date that so many of us hold dear passes, how many of us are aware of the attacks launched over there and not here, or did we overlook an orchid while searching for a rose. Maybe that’s too hypersensitive a thought.  I feel some empathy for the lady and the two less noted men in their detention and awkward moments and wish no harm upon them in any way.  I wanted to note that as I took us through this small journey of the law’s look at how things unfold, I wonder if the AP press writer whom submitted that article could have went further and added a bit more of the items we have discussed in this article and less sensationalism in title, excerpts, and content, never mind the “voluntary” photo of the lady and passengers mentioned, her of course violated, is projecting a nice seemingly relaxed smile.   This article did not mention the last two excerpts from the article found online where it mentions the other two events that occurred, must not have been as important as one person’s terrible experience in the midst of an anniversary we will all never forget and most whom read this article will not see that deliberate steps were taken to not mention the woman’s name. The Zen master’s apprentice says, “We should beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing, but only if we are certain the wolf even exists.”   

References and further Readings

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