Friday, March 23, 2007

Insulation of Bigotry Act of 2007

This one has gotten quite a bit of play over at Powerline today. Rep. Stevan Pierce (that's how Powerline spells it) from New Mexico introduced H.R. 1640, the short title of which is Protecting Americans Fighting Terrorism Act of 2007. Here's the impassioned, if ever-so-slightly misguided, Pierce in a press release talking about his new Magna Carta for bigots:

Today, United States Congressman Steve Pearce introduced H.R. 1640 the "Protecting Americans Fighting Terrorism Act of 2007." If passed, this legislation would protect individuals from being sued for reporting suspicious activities to law enforcement and security personnel.

The language of the Act comes as a direct response to a recent incident in Minneapolis. As reported in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the imams engaged in a variety of suspicious behaviors while boarding a US Airways flight, according to the airport police report. Some prayed loudly in the gate area, spoke angrily about the United States and Saddam, switched seats and sat in the 9/11 hijackers' configuration, and unnecessarily requested seatbelt extenders that could be used as weapons, according to witness reports and US Airways spokeswoman Andrea Rader.

As a result of the aforementioned behavior, citizens contacted airline authorities and the pilot informed law enforcement to have the suspicious parties removed from the aircraft. The original incident occurred in November of 2006; now the group has filed suit against US Airways and the Minneapolis - St. Paul Metropolitan Airports Commission on 17 different charges. Included in the lawsuit as defendants, are "John Does" described as citizens who called authorities to report the suspicious behavior of the Imams.

Rep. Pearce commented on introducing the bill: "It is a sad day in America when our own institutions of freedom are being used against us in the battle against terrorism. When I first heard about the lawsuit brought by the 'imams' in Minnesota, it was clear to me that this was an injustice against Americans who were simply trying to protect themselves. These brave citizens should be recognized as heroes for their efforts to report suspicious activity, particularly activity that has been associated with previous terror attacks.

"As Americans, we must not allow ourselves to be bullied by individuals who seek to disrupt our way of life. We can not allow the sympathizers of terrorism to make Americans wonder if they could be sued before reporting possible terrorist activity. Whether it is an intimidation tactic or a full scale attack, Americans have the right and responsibility to protect themselves and their fellow citizens. I introduced this legislation to protect Americans and keep all citizens alert and vocal as they serve on the front line in our battle against terrorism here in America."

Rep. Pearce was joined by 10 cosponsors in introducing this legislation.

One of the co-sponsors was the Colonel, our own John Kline.

Spotty has seen some grandstanding in his day, but Reps. Pearce and Kline, you take the Oscar® for this one. How many lawsuits do you think this will prevent, boys and girls?

It has to be a lot Spotty, otherwise Reps. Pearce and Kline wouldn't have bothered.

Oh, you are a callow fellow, grasshopper! The answer is zero. Here's what Rep. Pearce's bills says: you can't bring a civil action in a federal or state court for making a "qualified disclosure" of "suspicious conduct." Here's how a "qualified disclosure" is defined:

For purposes of this section, the term "qualified disclosure of suspicious behavior" means any disclosure of the allegedly suspicious behavior of another individual or individuals to a Federal, State, or local law enforcement agency or other security personnel that is made in good faith and with the reasonable belief that such behavior is suspicious.

Who is going to determine whether the discloser had a "reasonable belief" that the behavior was "suspicious"? And what's the standard? A reasonable person, or the panicked Mr. and Mrs. Bigot?

Boy, those sound like a question for the courts, Spotty!

Yes, grasshopper that's right. Which is why Rep. Pearce's exercise in futility will not keep anybody out of the courtroom. And Spotty says that the bill does not affect the legal standard a whit, either.

If you truthfully report facts to a law enforcement official, you don't have any liability for what the law enforcement official does. Aye, "truthfully," there's the rub. Either way, the Bigots are prospective defendants. If they're telling the truth, Spartan Nolting gets them off the hook, if they, er, embellished their story, they are probably liable whether or not Rep. Pearce's silly bill is passed.


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