- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2002

Just two questions about the American Airlines flight from which a Secret Service agent was booted on Christmas Day: What is the flight schedule of the pilot who captained it, and can we please always fly with him?
Three days after Richard Reid tried to blow up American Airlines Flight 63, a man identifying himself as a Secret Service agent boarded American Airlines Flight 363. He was the real McCoy, a seven-year veteran of the force named Walied Shater. But even before his paperwork sent up red flags, the man had attracted notice for exiting the plane after boarding (slightly odd) and leaving his carry-on luggage at his seat (a no-no). He also left a book that a flight attendant noticed was inscribed in Arabic-style writing.
The captain, in his subsequent report, would describe Mr. Shater as "nervous and anxious," an emotional state which, in the course of the airline's independent attempt to verify his identity, would evolve to "very hostile," then "loud and abusive." According to an airline manager with whom the captain was in contact, a ticket agent and a local policeman were able to corroborate the main points of the captain's account. This manager also spoke with Mr. Shater, reporting that he admitted to filing improper paperwork and losing his temper with the captain. The manager also reported that Mr. Shater "threatened that he would have my [the managers] job." Whatever the final straw was, American Airlines declined to carry Walied Shater on Christmas Day. The agent joined the presidential entourage the following day via another American flight.
All's well that ends well? Not exactly. First, President Bush announces he'll be "madder than heck" (groan) if his agent was bounced because of his "ethnicity." Next, the security agent hires legal counsel to charge exactly that: He was refused a seat on a commercial jet, his lawyers maintain, because of his Arab ancestry. "Pure and simple, this is a case of discrimination," said attorney John Relman. Without ruling out a lawsuit, the agent is demanding an apology from the airline and "civil rights" training for its crews.
Let's pause for a moment of mirthless laughter before unmasking this phony flap for the travesty that it is. Of all people, a presidential bodyguard should understand the pilot's crucial charge: to ensure the safety of his passengers and crew, not to mention people on the ground or in unfortified towers of steel and glass. It seems more than passing strange to have to recall that two American Airlines planes were among the four aircraft commandeered on September 11 by 19 Arab Muslims and turned into weapons of mass destruction. A Muslim man tried to do the same thing to another American flight several days before Mr. Shater came aboard displaying odd behavior, out-of-order paperwork and a disturbing temper. And he was packing heat. A captain would have be ruinously negligent or out of his mind to take such a passenger, Arab sheik or Mayflower Madam, on faith.
"Threats of lawsuits will not deter us from justly applying the security programs established to protect … customers who entrust us with their lives," American Airlines has stated. Bravo. Instead of asking for an apology, Walied Shater might consider making one.

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