Concern for Feelings Over Lives and Law

You might not have heard about this. See if you can figure out why.

The Associated Press reported Friday, April 9, that 88 illegal aliens who had successfully boarded Continental Airlines cross-country flight 1803 in Los Angeles were detained by federal agents acting on a tip when the plane landed in Newark, N.J. They are now waiting to have their cases heard before an immigration judge.

Because only photo identification, not proof of citizenship, is required to board a domestic flight, it is not unheard of for illegal aliens to fly within the United States, and it is unknown how agents knew who to pull aside once the plane landed in New Jersey.

On Saturday, April 10, the Associated Press published another story that was eerily similar. The AP reported that officials nabbed more than 40 illegal immigrants on two Saturday morning flights from Los Angeles to Newark. Agents also arrested four other illegals waiting for the planes to arrive and charged them with immigrant smuggling.

What’s truly outrageous about these stories — other than the fact that in two days 130 illegal aliens were able to fly, without any apparent difficulty whatsoever, cross-country from Los Angeles to Newark — is how the New York Times reported on this. When the Times did run something (on page B4 of the Saturday late edition) more attention was given to the people outraged over possible racial profiling that might have been used by federal agents to nab these criminals than to the actual news of what happened.

And guess how much ink the Times gave to those concerned citizens upset about the illegal aliens on the planes. That’s right — none.

Instead of pointing out and reporting on the obvious problem of the nature of the offense, the Times decided that the crux of this situation was that “the case highlighted the tension between efforts to stem the smuggling of illegal immigrants and concerns about profiling and the erosion of civil liberties.”

We Americans have become way more concerned about not hurting anyone’s feelings than about protecting the lives of Americans. According to liberals, like those at the Times, even after 9/11 our focus needs to be not on how best to prevent our citizens’ premature deaths, but how to avoid treading on the dignity of someone the federal government might think is an illegal alien or a terrorist based on their race or ethnicity.

Even the Clinton administration believed a system of passenger profiling was one of the best ways to improve airport security. In the book Dereliction of Duty (published by Regnery, a HUMAN EVENTS sister company), we read the following:

    During the summer of the 1996 attacks [on the Khobar Towers, the U.S. Air Force barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia], I myself learned firsthand that the administration know that terrorists were plotting to use commercial airliners as weapons. The president received a Presidential Daily Brief, of PDB, every morning. It was a document encased in a smart leather folder, and emblazoned with the presidential seal, that contained the president’s daily intelligence update form the NSC. A senior NSC representative normally delivered it to the president. On weekends, at Camp David, and on vacations, the military aide was responsible for delivering and retrieving the brief.

    One late-summer Saturday morning, the president asked me to pick up a few days’ worth of PDBs that had accumulated in the Oval Office. He gave them to me with handwritten notes stuffed inside the folders and asked that I deliver them back to the NSC.

    I opened the PDB to rearrange the notes and noticed that heading “Operation Bojinka.” I keyed on a reference to a plot to use commercial airliners as weapons and another plot to put bombs on U.S. airliners. Because I was a pilot, this naturally grabbed my attention. I can state for a fact that this information was circulated within the U.S. intelligence community, and that in late 1996 the president was aware of it.

    Shortly thereafter, the president appointed Vice President Gore to chair the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security. The commission’s report, released in spring 1998, laid out several recommendations to improve airport security, one of which included establishing a system for profiling passengers. But the FAA chose not to comply, because of inevitable fears that profiling on the basis of ethnicity and national origin would run into legal grounds that would violate civil liberties.

For Americans to be told to believe that what they should be offended by in this story is the notion that racial profiling might have been used to arrest lawbreakers and not by the possibility that, in a post-9/11 world, cross-country domestic flights (the type boarded by the 19 hijackers) can be heavily populated with illegal aliens on whom we have no records at all, seems silly, at best.