Lawyers for Arab-American Secret Service Officer Present Facts of Airline Discrimination
Washington, DC — Attorneys representing the Arab-American Secret Service officer who was removed from an American Airlines (AA) light on December 25 held a press conference today in which they discussed facts of the incident. The officer, who worked with the ADC Legal Department to obtain legal representation and file an official complaint with the Department of Transportation (DOT), requested that an accurate account of the facts be released by his attorneys.
The attorneys confirmed that the officer, who is a member of President Bush’s elite Secret Service security detail, is an Arab American who has served in Federal law enforcement his entire professional life. The officer has served with the Secret Service for seven years and with the elite Presidential Security Detail for two years.
The officer’s own account of the incident makes it clear that all proper procedures were followed and that he was barred from the flight because he is of Arab ethnicity. He was introduced to the pilot on board and provided him with the forms authorizing travel as an armed Secret Service officer and confirm his identity and occupation. The pilot refused to take further steps to verify the officer’s identity, even after the officer attempted to give the pilot the telephone number to the White House switchboard. The officer’s conduct was professional throughout. When an AA corporate security employee finally called the officer’s supervisor later that evening, after AA had apparently banned him from all future AA flights, AA was able to confirm his identity in less than five minutes and the officer was allowed to fly the next morning. He was forced to arrive at his assigned post of protecting President Bush a day late.
The Arab-American Secret Service Officer, who is a member of President Bush’s Secret Service security detail, was forced to experience what can only be categorized as illegal airline passenger discrimination. At Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) on December 25. he was a scheduled passenger on AA flight number 1191 departing from BWI to the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. The officer was originally scheduled to accompany the President aboard Air Force One to Crawford, Texas. He was placed on a commercial flight because of a change in the President’s schedule.
Due to a mechanical problem, AA flight 1191 was canceled and the officer was rescheduled on AA flight 363. This flight was scheduled to depart BWI at 5:15 p.m. Once seated on flight 363, the officer was confronted by airline security personnel and was asked to exit the plane and submit to additional security checks. After a delay of one hour and fifteen minutes, during which the officer was questioned by the pilot, airline officials, and airport police, he was ordered removed from the flight despite the fact that he offered to have the Secret Service verify his identity. No other reason was given for his removal. Mr. Brian Marr, the Secret Service spokesman, has confirmed the account of this incident.
Upon being contacted by the officer on December 27, the ADC Legal Department filed an official complaint with the proper authorities at the DOT and advised Mr. Donald J. Carty, Chairman, President and CEO of AA of the incident requesting that AA take the necessary steps to remedy the situation. The DOT has confirmed to ADC that it has launched an official investigation into the incident per ADC’s request. Additionally, ADC Legal Advisors consulted with the officer and provided him with legal recommendations and suggested legal representation which the officer has decided to retain.
ADC strongly supports all measures to increase air travel security as outlined in DOT and FAA directives. However, this incident clearly points to national origin and/or ethnic discrimination by AA and its agents. It is part of a disturbing trend of airline passenger discrimination which has emerged since the September 11 attacks.