Strong opinions, weakly held

Racial profiling on 9/11

You’ve probably already seen this story, but I’m linking to it in case you haven’t. On 9/11, fighter planes were dispatched to shadow a passenger flight from Denver to Detroit because several passengers exhibited, in the eyes of the crew, suspicious activity. When the flight landed, the SWAT team showed up and handcuffed and detained the “suspicous” passengers.

I was at the gym yesterday and saw a chyron on CNN about this story, and I immediately assumed that this was yet another case of unfounded panic and probably racial profiling. Without hearing any of the details, I was immediately frustrated by this latest example of the security state gone insane.

Of course the three passengers in question were released after a few hours with no charges against them, because they were not in any way terrorists. Yesterday one of the detained passengers, Shoshana Hebshi, posted a first-hand account of what happened.

The three “suspicious” passengers happened to be brown people who were coincidentally seated on the same row. What happened to them when the plane landed?

Someone shouted for us to place our hands on the seats in front of us, heads down. The cops ran down the aisle, stopped at my row and yelled at the three of us to get up. “Can I bring my phone?” I asked, of course. What a cliffhanger for my Twitter followers! No, one of the cops said, grabbing my arm a little harder than I would have liked. He slapped metal cuffs on my wrists and pushed me off the plane. The three of us, two Indian men living in the Detroit metro area, and me, a half-Arab, half-Jewish housewife living in suburban Ohio, were being detained.

The cops brought us to a parked squad car next to the plane, had us spread our legs and arms. Mine asked me if I was wearing any explosives. “No,” I said, holding my tongue to not let out a snarky response. I wasn’t sure what I could and could not say, and all that came out was “What’s going on?”

This is America in 2011 and what bothers me most is that my initial leap to conclusions at the gym was borne out completely.


  1. Thanks for passing that along, Rafe.

  2. You can’t share this too much – held illegally for hours without contact with a lawyer, strip searched, all because some random racist on the place had a random fright treated credulously? This should be coming up at every point during the election cycle rather than being dropped as soon as the initial news cycle ebbs…

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