Repub­li­cans lobby Pelosi to pro­tect vig­i­lant ‘John Does’

The Washington Times Weekly - - From Page One - By Au­drey Hud­son

Key Repub­li­cans are lob­by­ing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pro­tect leg­is­la­tion that pro­hibits air­line pas­sen­gers from be­ing sued if they re­port sus­pi­cious be­hav­ior that fore­shad­ows a ter­ror­ist at­tack.

Repub­li­can lead­ers used a pro­ce­dural mo­tion to in­sert that pro­vi­sion into a trans­porta­tion-safety bill last month, but House Ma­jor­ity Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Mary­land Demo­crat, has threat­ened to bar from be­com­ing law all lan­guage en­tered into bills un­der such “mo­tions to recom­mit.”

“We can­not af­ford to wait any longer to pro­tect in­di­vid­u­als who seek to do the right thing by speak­ing up to pre­vent a ter­ror­ist at­tack,” more than a dozen Repub­li­cans wrote to Mrs. Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, on May 2 in a let­ter ob­tained by The Wash­ing­ton Times.

The leg­is­la­tion re­sponds to a law­suit filed by six Mus­lim imams af­ter they were re­moved from a Nov. 20 U.S. Air­ways flight from Min­neapo­lis to Phoenix for sus­pi­cious be­hav­ior. The law­suit was filed on March 12 and also named as de­fen­dants any yet-un­known “John Doe” pas­sen­gers who re­ported the imams’ be­hav­ior.

“This rep­re­sents a star­tling prece­dent, one that could freeze the very be­hav­ior law en­force­ment has en­cour­aged,” the let­ter said.

The amend­ment — spon­sored by Rep. Peter T. King, New York Repub­li­can and rank­ing mem­ber of the House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee — pro­vides civil-li­a­bil­ity pro­tec­tion to in­di­vid­u­als who act in good faith and re­port sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity that could pred­i­cate a ter­ror­ist at­tack or other threat to the trav­el­ing pub­lic.

“In light of the over­whelm­ing sup­port from the Amer­i­can pub­lic and House mem­bers, and de­spite op­po­si­tion from a ma­jor­ity of House Democrats, we seek your com­mit­ment to re­tain the King Amend­ment in rail and mass-tran­sit se­cu­rity leg­is­la­tion adopted in any con­fer­ence re­port for H.R. 1 and S. 4,” said the let­ter to Mrs. Pelosi.

“Your com­mit­ment to rec­og­nize the vote of more than 300 mem­bers is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant in light of Ma­jor­ity Leader Hoyer’s com­ments that Repub­li­can ad­di­tions to bills can be re­moved eas­ily in con­fer­ence com­mit­tee,” the let­ter said. The ef­fort passed on a vote of 304121, with 105 Democrats sid­ing with all 199 Repub­li­cans who voted.

The let­ter was signed by Mr. King, House Mi­nor­ity Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio, Steve Pearce of New Mex­ico, Mi­nor­ity Whip Roy Blunt of Mis­souri, Adam H. Put­nam of Florida, Eric Can­tor of Vir­ginia, Mark Souder of In­di­ana, Mike Rogers of Alabama, Michael Mc- Caul of Texas, Bill Shuster and Char­lie Dent of Penn­syl­va­nia, Dan Lun­gren of Cal­i­for­nia and Dave Re­ichert of Wash­ing­ton.

“Open lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion are crit­i­cal to both pas­sen­ger se­cu­rity and our col­lec­tive na­tional se­cu­rity, and at­tempts to sti­fle such speech don’t serve the in­ter­ests of the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” Mr. Boehner said. “We would cer­tainly hope that Demo­cratic con­fer­ees take this very se­ri­ously [. . . ] and let sound pol­icy — not par­ti­san pol­i­tics — be the ar­biter of what ends up in this con­fer­ence re­port.”

Mr. Hoyer’s spokes­woman, Stacey Bernards, said her boss wouldn’t au­to­mat­i­cally strip all such pro­vi­sions but wants re­mov­ing them in con­fer­ence com­mit­tee to be “an op­tion.”

“It’s not ‘would be,’ it’s ‘could be’ [re­moved] when it goes through the con­fer­ence process,” Miss Bernards said. “Some of the things [Republi- cans] are do­ing is a res­tate­ment of cur­rent law, and some things are just about po­lit­i­cal point-scor­ing that does not have any real sub­stance to them.

“That’s not some­thing the Repub­li­cans should take is­sue with. When they were in the ma­jor­ity, they changed bills in con­fer­ence on a reg­u­lar ba­sis,” Miss Bernards said. “Their con­cerns about con­fer­ence com­mit­tee are a new con­ver­sion.”

The Repub­li­cans’ let­ter cites nu­mer­ous ar­ti­cles and edi­to­ri­als in The Wash­ing­ton Times and other publi­ca­tions that have “come out in sup­port of the King amend­ment in re­vers­ing the po­ten­tially chill­ing ef­fect this lit­i­ga­tion could have.”

“Since the tragic at­tacks on Septem­ber 11, fed­eral, state and lo­cal agen­cies have called upon the pub­lic to re­main vig­i­lant in their daily lives — pro­mot­ing a ‘see some­thing, say some­thing’ cul­ture,” the let­ter said.

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