- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2002

Attorneys for an Arab-American Secret Service agent kicked off an American Airlines flight on Christmas Day accused the pilot yesterday of singling out the agent because of his ethnicity.
The agent's attorneys claim the American Airlines pilot refused to verify the agent's credentials, even though the agent tried to give the pilot the names and telephone numbers of his supervisors at the Secret Service and the White House. The agent's name has not been released due to security concerns.
The agent has been a member of President Bush's security detail for the past two years and was on his way to Mr. Bush's Texas ranch to report for duty when the incident at Baltimore-Washington International Airport occurred.
Also, the agent's identity was cleared by three Maryland Transportation Authority police officers at three separate airport security checkpoints before boarding Flight 363, the attorneys said.
A single telephone call to the White House or the Secret Service could have confirmed the agent's identity in minutes, the attorneys said.
"We believe the only reason why [the agent] was denied boarding the flight was because he is an American of Arab descent," said John P. Relman, one of the agent's three attorneys, at a news conference yesterday. "This is a case of discrimination."
The 33-year-old agent, armed at the time of the incident, also was carrying an official Secret Service badge, a photo identification card and government-issued airline tickets when he boarded the flight, his attorneys said.
The attorneys said the agent is not considering filing a civil lawsuit against the airline company.
However, they said, no final decision has been made.
American Airlines officials yesterday defended the pilot's decision in a statement. "American carries out its security obligations according to the guidelines provided by the federal government," the statement said. "Those guidelines are applied equally among all passengers, and the company vigorously resents any suggestion of racial discrimination."
The agent did not attend yesterday's news conference but he issued a statement: "It has never been my desire to make this incident personal. This case is only about the facts. I love my job and I want to thank my fellow agents for all of their support. God Bless America."
Each side offered a different version of what happened that day.
The agent's attorneys said the incident occurred after the agent and other passengers were moved from a canceled flight to Waco, Texas, to another flight to Dallas.
In addition to being cleared by law enforcement officials, the agent filled out all the required paperwork to go on the initial flight. The attorneys said there were no more forms available for the second flight so an airline employee crossed out the first flight and seat number and wrote down the second. The agent boarded the plane, introduced himself to the pilot as required by procedure, and handed him the paperwork authorizing his travel.
After several minutes, the pilot asked the agent and four other passengers to leave the plane to undergo further security checks.
The attorneys claim the pilot asked the agent to fill out more forms and then waited 90 minutes before telling the agent he was not allowed back on the plane.
According to the pilot's statement, he was only following federal security procedures. He also said the agent became hostile with the pilot and other flight attendants, and acted nervous when the pilot asked about the cross-outs on the forms.


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