‘John Doe’ pro­tec­tions urged for Fort Dix tip­ster to avoid lit­i­ga­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Au­drey Hud­son

The New Jer­sey store clerk whose tip led to the ar­rest of six ter­ror sus­pects needs leg­isla­tive pro­tec­tion from be­ing sued as a “John Doe” or whistle­blower, law­mak­ers said May 10.

“The events in Fort Dix are just an­other re­minder of the need for this leg­is­la­tion,” said Rep. Steve Pearce, New Mex­ico Repub­li­can and au­thor of leg­is­la­tion to pro­tect “John Doe” pas­sen­gers be­ing sued by a group of Mus­lim imams for re­port­ing their sus­pi­cious be­hav­ior that got the imams re­moved from an air­line flight.

“We owe a debt of grat­i­tude to this in­di­vid­ual for alert­ing au­thor­i­ties to this po­ten­tial ter­ror­ist at­tack and thwart­ing what could have been a ter­ri­ble dis­as­ter. I can only imag­ine how grate­ful the men and women at Fort Dix and their fam­i­lies are for the courage of this per­son to take ac­tion when he saw some­thing sus­pi­cious,” Mr. Pearce said.

U.S. au­thor­i­ties ar­rested six for­eign-born Mus­lims sus­pected of plot­ting to at­tack the New Jer­sey fort and kill “as many Amer­i­can sol­diers as pos­si­ble [. . .] in the name of Al­lah.” The FBI was alerted to the group by a clerk at the Cir­cuit City store who had been asked to copy to a video disc images of the men test­fir­ing weapons in the moun­tains and call­ing for ji­had.

“If we didn’t get that tip,” said U.S. At­tor­ney Christo­pher Christie in New Jer­sey, “I couldn’t be sure what would hap­pen.”

M. Zuhdi Jasser, di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can Is­lamic Fo­rum for Democ­racy, agrees that the FBI’s ar­rests show the need to pro­tect the prin­ci­ple of “see some­thing, say some­thing.”

“What if this ‘John Doe’ had con­trar­ily cho­sen to be silent due to a fear of lit­i­ga­tion?” Dr. Jasser said.

House Mi­nor­ity Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Repub­li­can, and Rep. Peter T. King of New York, the rank­ing Repub­li­can on the Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, used a pro­ce­dural tac­tic to add the Pearce lan­guage to a rail and trans­porta­tion se­cu­rity bill in March. The amend­ment was passed, with unan­i­mous ap­proval of Repub­li­cans and sup- port from 105 Democrats.

“A coura­geous act such as this one should not only be com­mended, it should be touted as a pos­i­tive ex­am­ple of what cit­i­zens can do help pre­vent acts of ter­ror­ism here at home,” Mr. Boehner said.

“It’s crit­i­cal that Democrats leave the Pearce lan­guage in­tact dur­ing con­fer­ence ne­go­ti­a­tions so this kind of cit­i­zen par­tic­i­pa­tion is fos­tered and pro­tected, not dis­cour­aged and lit­i­gated,” Mr. Boehner said.

Drew Ham­mill, spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, said, “This is an is­sue for the con­fer­ees.”

Jef­frey Ad­di­cott, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Ter­ror­ism Law at St. Mary’s Univer­sity School of Law in San An­to­nio, said no pro­tec­tions are in place for those who re­port crimes. He said th­ese whistle­blow­ers can be sued for vi­o­lat­ing con­sti­tu­tional rights or for racial dis­crim­i­na­tion.

“If the re­port does not have fac­tual claims, you can be sued for vi­o­lat­ing some­one’s civil rights,” Mr. Ad­di­cott said.

The Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions (CAIR) praised the FBI for the ar­rests and said it “seems clear that a po­ten­tially deadly at­tack has been averted.”

“We con­tinue to urge Amer­i­can Mus­lims to be vig­i­lant in re­port­ing any sus­pected crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties that could harm the safety and se­cu­rity of our na­tion.”

S.A. Miller con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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