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  • Prosecute the flying imams?

    Posted by Jonathan on December 31st, 2006 (All posts by )

    Here’s one proposal (in response to this reasonable question). Newt Gingrich expressed a similar idea.

    Nowadays anybody who makes bomb jokes in an airport security line or on a plane can expect to be arrested. So why doesn’t a group exercise in terrorism street-theater, which seems to be much more threatening and disruptive than are mere jokes, get the same response? Certainly the perpetrators of this incident have received a lot of public scrutiny and criticism, which they deserve, but they also have received a great deal of valuable publicity at little cost to themselves.

    The implicit incentive structure here is not a good one. Politically protected groups should not be granted legal safe harbor to engage in abusive stunts while poor schmucks who say something stupid in an airport security line get the book thrown at them. If we are serious about security we should prosecute the imams — as punishment for disrupting the lives of many people who reasonably perceived them as threatening, as a deterrent against future such behavior and to deter real attacks. On the other hand, if we think it’s more important to be politically correct and not offend anyone, let’s eliminate the whole air-security charade.

    I think we should be serious about security and prosecute the imams. Their behavior, unlike that of most jokesters, was clearly intended to provoke and did so convincingly. Unfortunately the official response to the incident makes clear that political correctness is our institutional priority.


    20 Responses to “Prosecute the flying imams?”

    1. edh Says:

      You should at least research and quote the relevent portion of the statute under which you’d prosecute. My guess is the statute doesn’t criminalize the legalisitcally savy implicit threat behaviors of the Flying Imams, but does criminalize ham-handed, explicit bomb joke. Mike Dukakis was detained for that many years ago, before 9-11, but not prosecuted.

    2. Tom Holsinger Says:

      18 U.S.C. 1961 – RICO

    3. jerry robertson Says:

      Newt is right….prosecute them…make it punishable for muslims just like any others….enough of the compassionate and politcally correct…let’s protect ourselves and our future….

    4. Jonathan Says:

      You may be right that the imams broke no laws. In that case perhaps we should change the laws. (We could call the new law “anti-pretexting legislation.”) At the least I think they are legitimate candidates for inclusion on the government’s no-fly list, and if I ran an airline I would not knowingly transport them in the future.

    5. Richard R Says:

      “Section 46504 of Title 49, United States Code (formerly section 1472(j) of Title 49 Appendix) sets forth the offense of interference with a flight crew member or flight attendant within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, which is defined in 49 U.S.C. § 46501(2). The statute applies to any “individual on an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States who, by assaulting or intimidating a flight crew member or flight attendant of the aircraft, interferes with the performance of the duties of the member or attendant or lessens the ability of the member or attendant to perform those duties.” The statute provides for up to 20 years imprisonment, and further provides for imprisonment for any term of years or life if a dangerous weapon is used. Interference with a flight crew member or attendant is a general intent crime, and does not require a specific intent either to intimidate the flight crew member or attendant or to interfere with t he performance of his or her duties. United States v. Grossman, 131 F.3d 1449 (11th Cir. 1997).

      Venue is governed by the standard venue provisions, 18 U.S.C. §§ 3237 and 3238 and Rule 18, Fed.R.Crim.Proc. See also United States v. Hall, 691 F.2d 48 (1st Cir. 1982). “[T]he offense continues for at least as long as the crew are responding directly, and in derogation of their ordinary duties, to the defendant’s behavior.” United States v. Hall, 691 F.2d at 50. Prosecution is always proper in the district over which the aircraft was flying when the interference took place, if that can be determined. In many cases, particularly those in which either (1) the aircraft is diverted due to the defendant’s actions, (2) the defendant’s interfering actions continue, or (3) the crew remains concerned about defendant’s possible further actions, venue is also proper in the district in which the aircraft lands. Since determining the district over which the aircraft was flying when the action took place may be difficult, and that district may have little or no connection to the matter, the Department advocates prosecution in the district where the aircraft lands and the defendant is deboarded and arrested in all appropriate cases.

      The interference and other Title 49 aircraft offenses are supervised by the Terrorism and Violent Crime Section (TVCS), which can be reached at (202) 514-0849.”

      They sat in seats that they were not ticketed for, and refused to move back to their assigned seats when the flight crew ordered them to do so.

    6. Nelson Says:

      Unless this type of thing becomes a recurring problem, it would probably be better to just leave it alone. We have more serious threats to deal with that should be a higher priority than prosecuting these guys for acting funny.

    7. donovan Says:

      fry ’em………….. i’m your,very typical…middle aged whiteboy…..general issue, G.I.
      it’s hard enough to get past security to the airplane being ‘typical’….I wear sweats and slip on shoes….a book…and, until recently….a bottle of water(O.K….it vas vodka, man…they blew my scam), i’m a 54 yo whiteboy, avarage build, greying, no tatoos, nothing fancy,no criminal history, no gold chains, rings or spiked hairdoo. Yet it seems like I- all too often- get pulled aside for additonal screening at the airport… (not complaining here, good on ya’ for doing your best) If I tried to ‘be funny’ boarding a flight, I’d expect to spend the rest of my days in irons.
      What makes these guys so special? seems to me they are like children……always pressing the envelope. take it home….reel ’em in or they will reel US in. They are asking us where the boundries are….how about HERE.fry ’em.

    8. Kerry Says:

      Nelson is spot on. Nothing funny about this should be done until a plane is brought down.

    9. TigerHawk Says:

      Richard R seems to have made out a prima facia case. Good job!

    10. Albert Schwartz Says:

      The passengers on the flight should just sue them in a civil class action for delay of their travel plans and emotional distress. Go for a big punitive damage award too.

      There’s good evidence that the actions were deliberate and intended to provoke. As a bonus, who knows what you might learn during discovery? At the very least you give these guys a taste of their own medicine.

    11. erp Says:

      This probably won’t happen again because the reaction was uniformly (almost) negative. Not what they expected.

      There were too many people at the airport who witnessed the farce for the media to spin (try as the Star-Tribune did) it as holy men innocently praying while savage rightwing Islamofascists denied them their civil right to disrupt air travel further.

    12. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      Erp, if only that were so. Many people where I work still remember vaguely about an airline that “overreacted” about some Muslims who were “just praying,” missed their flight and were treated like criminals.

      Prosecution is reasonable. As an example, if someone had done exactly the same thing to facilitate a later drug importation or child kidnapping, wouldn’t we want to prosecute them?

    13. Mike Says:

      re: Erp’s comment re: star-tribune

      While I’m sure the star-tribune was a guilty as most media at the time of the incident, some of the best articles about the farce have come from the star-tribune — kristin what’s her name had a 2 part article summarizing the charade for everything it is, but more importantly, one of the first msm to do so.

    14. robert Says:

      Just because they can be prosecuted doesn’t mean that they should be prosecuted. This is espescially so given the fact that such a prosecution–irrrespective of whether or not it leads to convictions–will turn the defendants into folk heroes and grant them an undeserved moral victory.

    15. Jimbo Says:

      If not a prosecution then how about a civil suit from the other passengers and crew? The discovery phase might be particularly interesting?

    16. Jed Marlin Says:

      Here’s a good vid at youtube on the flying imams

    17. ken harkins Says:

      They can be prosecuted for conspiracy. Ask any lawyer. Conspiracy does not even require that a crime be intended.

    18. jt007 Says:

      Filing a civil suit is a great idea. Surely there is some public interest law firm that will file the claim on behalf of a passenger with standing. The imams were attending a conference so they were arguably traveling in an official capacity so their mosques/organizations could also be named as defendants on a respondeat superior basis. This would deprive them of any claim of government harassment, it would disrupt their operations and could serve as a powerful deterrent against future shenanigans by like minded groups. I am a civil litigator and can personally attest that civil discovery can be about as much fun for the parties as a proctological exam and a lot more expensive.

    19. Daniel Says:

      Prosecute. Absolutely.

      Their actions spoke volumes.

      They are attempting to extort funds from this incident due to other funding sources that are drying up. They are trying to use our own system against us to get money for their cause.

      Conspiracy to commit fraud, collusion, extortion.
      Clear to me they broke laws.

    20. Nike in NY Says:

      Robert says: “just be cause they can be prosecuted doesn’t mean they should be…etc.” Your on the wrong topic, you should be addressing the “Duke/Nifong Case”. If any American can get away with what these “Muslim Brothers/Imans” did let us know…so we can do the same. We are all equal, right???????

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