Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A pyrrhic victory?

My initial euphoria at the revivification of the "John Doe" protection provision in the Homeland Security bill is much tempered by a look at the actual language to which its opponents agreed. It has quite enough wiggle room to enable the sort of mischief at which attorneys and grievance activists have become adept. Moreover, any hopes that this measure, if passed, is going to "nullify, in part" the "flying imams" lawsuit (an outcome predicted by Washington Times reporter Audrey Hudson) are likely to be dashed. The devil is in the details:

"Any person who, in good faith and based on objectively reasonable suspicion, makes or causes to be made, a voluntary report of covered activity to an authorized official shall be immune from civil liability under federal, state, and local law for such report."

The problem, as Allahpundit points out, is the phrase "objectively reasonable suspicion." This differs from Rep. Peter King's stand-alone version of the bill, H.R. 2291, which reads:

"Any person who, in good faith, makes, or causes to be made, a voluntary disclosure of any suspicious transaction, activity, or occurrence … to any employee or agent of the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, or the Department of Justice, any Federal, State, or local law enforcement officer, any transportation security officer, or any employee or agent of a transportation system shall be immune from civil liability to any person for such disclosure under any Federal, State, or local law."

Requiring a passenger's suspicion to be "objectively reasonable" will enable lawyers such as Omar Mohammedi, the CAIR activist who is representing the "flying imams," to quibble about what is "reasonable" and what is "objective." It will be argued that loudly-voiced professions of Islamic faith at airport gates are entirely reasonable to pious Muslims, and therefore reporting such behavior as "suspicious" is actionable. It will further be argued that any suspicion of Muslims by non-Muslims cannot be objective but only subjective, driven by "Islamophobia." It is not to be supposed that either Mohammedi, his clients, or their backers are going to roll over and play dead if this provision passes.

Update: CAIR spokescreature says suits will continue.

Imagine my surprise.

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