- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2002

Secret Service agent Shater patriotic or unprofessional?

Secret Service agent Walied Shater is one of the last people on Earth who should, as you suggest, give an apology to the American public ("Bravo to American Airlines," Editorial, Jan. 8). Mr. Shater is a patriot who puts his life on the line for our president and first lady on a daily basis.

Furthermore, while your editorial quotes mainly American Airlines personnel who stated that Mr. Shater was "hostile" and "abusive," many of the plane's passengers stated the opposite. The book possessed by Mr. Shater contained no Arabic writing. Rather, it was an English-language college textbook about the Arab world. This entire situation could have been averted if American Airlines staffers had made a simple routine phone call to the Secret Service.

It appears that American Airlines is merely trying to save its tail in this case. American Airlines gets an F for both safety and public-relations strategy.


Greenvale, N.Y.

In his Jan. 8 Commentary column, "Profiling? Maybe, but so what?" Jonah Goldberg says, "In turn, who would be surprised if Mr. Shater was abusive and confrontational as the pilot contends? That's a human response for anybody who feels like he's being treated unfairly, especially if it's a racial thing."

This would be true of any average business or pleasure traveler, but not of someone as highly trained as a Secret Service agent on presidential protection detail. I would expect most city policemen to respond in a more reasoned and reasonable manner, even or especially to insinuated bigotry. One of the first jobs of law enforcement personnel is to maintain their cool when those around them are losing it. Agent Shater's superiors need to sit down with him and determine the reasons for his inappropriate response to personal inconvenience.


Rio Rancho, N.M.

Catholic bishops promote surest protection against HIV/AIDS

Rea Howarth's letter about the Catholic bishops' teaching on the use of condoms shows the duplicitous nature of those who want to blame the bishops for the spread of AIDS ("Condoms safe, bishops 'purveyors of death,'" Letters, Jan. 8). Ms. Howarth, coordinator for Catholics Speak Out, says it is not the condom itself that fails, it's how people use it. The typical-use condom failure rate is about 15 percent annually, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute. The failure rate of abstinence until marriage and self-restraint is zero. Do the math and figure out which method saves more lives.

Further, Ms. Howarth says that if the condom is used properly, the failure rate is about 2 percent. I am sure that's very comforting to that 2 percent. Again, following the church's teaching results in 0 percent infection.

It matters not how the condom fails. The people who continue to argue that using condoms rather than following the teachings of the church stops the spread of AIDS are the true "purveyors of death." That includes Ms. Howarth.


Director of communications

Catholic League

New York

Grounding student pilots won't stop suicide bombers

I have been a licensed pilot and aircraft owner for more than 30 years, and your Jan. 8 editorial lambasting flight schools diverged quite a bit from your paper's normally clearheaded thinking (" a lump of coal for the flight schools"). To suggest that standard flight-school procedures are responsible for Charles Bishop's suicidal flight into a Tampa bank is ridiculous.

The acme of your foolishness was the line, "Even if it is 'routine' to allow flight students access to airplanes post-September 11, that practice should and must end."

Excuse me, but that is like saying that people training to be doctors should not be given access to patients, that people learning to drive trucks cannot have access to them or that police undergoing firearms instruction must not have access to guns.

Back when The Washington Times was thinking clearly, you weren't blaming the Columbine High School murders on "easy access to guns," like other media. Now, however, you blame the Tampa incident on easy access to aircraft.

This particular student was assigned by his instructor to perform the normal and necessary task of doing a preflight inspection, which has been a part of the training and good pilot practice since airplanes were invented. It is not a trivial task. Indeed, it is an exercise the Federal Aviation Administration requires for pilot licensing.

I think you'll agree that a long list of rules and laws were violated by this student, beginning when he stole the aircraft. The flight school is the last place to lay the blame. That is like blaming Ryder for bombs detonated inside its rental trucks.

This angry young man just as easily could have thrown a gasoline bomb into the lobby of the bank or driven his parents' car into a crowd of his classmates waiting for their school bus or, for that matter, stolen a truck from a truck stop and used it to ram a passing freight train.

In no case should The Times waver in focusing on personal and parental responsibility.


Boone County, Mo.

You can argue that a 15-year old shouldn't be allowed to be alone with an airplane, but to suggest that a student pilot is any more likely to commit disastrous acts than anyone else is unreasonable (" a lump of coal for the flight schools," Jan. 8). Charles Bishop easily could have waited until he turned 17 and had completed his license before doing what he did. Many of the September 11 hijackers, after all, were licensed pilots.

The fact is that common cars and trucks have far more destructive ability than a small airplane constructed of thin, lightweight aluminum. Imagine driving a Volkswagen through a crowd of people. Or how about a stolen 18-wheeler gasoline-tank truck parked on the Golden Gate Bridge? Now that's dangerous.

If anyone thinks it's necessary to make strict rules for aviation, he or she had best include the same restrictions on any vehicle larger than a skateboard.

The lasting damage of September 11 may be its effect on private aviation an important part of our economy and our freedom. The damage won't have been done by the hijackers, however. It will have been done by overreacting, uninformed media.


Fountain Hills, Ariz.

The purpose of primary flight training is for the student to learn how to operate an airplane alone. In fact, a pilot's license requires a significant amount of solo flight, including an extended solo cross-country trip. To deny students access to aircraft, as you advocate in your editorial " a lump of coal for the flight schools," is not realistic. Nor is it compatible with aviation safety.

Sure, fruitcakes like Charles Bishop are out there, but he could have caused more damage by stealing his mommy's Ford Excursion and mowing down pedestrians on a sidewalk. It's simply not feasible to lock up everything a lunatic possibly could use to cause trouble. As the minimal damage resulting from the boy's actions demonstrates, there are much greater threats then light aircraft.


Summit, N.J.

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