NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 10, 2004

The 9/11 Commission acknowledged that the threat of terrorism stems from Islamic extremists, but the federal government is punishing airlines for using this information to improve their security, writes Heather MacDonald of the Wall Street Journal.

In what will likely undermine airline safety, Department of Transportation (DOT) lawyers have extracted millions in settlements from four major carriers for alleged discrimination after 9/11:

  • DOT sued American Airlines for asking 10 passengers out of the 23 million served in the last four months of 2001 not to board because of security concerns that could not be resolved in time for departure (shoe-bomber Richard Reid was not included in the complaint).
  • While denying guilt, American settled for $1.5 million to be spent on sensitivity training; similar suits have yielded additional millions from United, Delta and Continental Airlines.

MacDonald says it is reckless for airline security not to evaluate risk based on race, ethnic heritage or religious orientation when the threat is Islamic terrorism. She adds that the confiscated funds would be better used on improving security training.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union has brought its own airline discrimination suits. One against Northwest seeks government terror-watch lists, Northwest's boarding procedures and its cabin-training manual -- a veritable goldmine for terrorists should such information leak out, writes MacDonald.

Source: Heather MacDonald, "Straighten Up and Fly Right," Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2004.

For WSJ text (subscription required),,SB110194850394688792-search,00.html


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