Despite Mineta's clearly worded letter immediately after the 9-11 terrorist attacks and another follow-up letter in October, the Department of Transportation found that in the weeks after the 9-11 terrorist attacks carried out by Middle Eastern men, the airlines were targeting passengers who appeared to be Middle Eastern. To his horror, Mineta discovered that the airlines were using logic and deductive reasoning to safeguard their passengers ? in direct violation of his just-issued guidelines on racial profiling!
The Department of Transportation filed a complaint against United Airlines, claiming United removed passengers from flights in "a few instances" based on their race, color, national origin, religion or ancestry. Mineta gave United no credit for so scrupulously ignoring ethnicity on Sept. 11 that it lost four pilots, 12 flight attendants, and 84 passengers (not including the nine Arab hijackers). In November 2003, United settled the case for $1.5 million.
In another crucial anti-terrorism investigation undertaken by Norman Mineta, the Department of Transportation claimed that between Sept. 11, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2001, American Airlines ? which lost four pilots, 13 flight attendants and 129 passengers (not including 10 Arab hijackers) on Sept. 11 by ignoring the ethnicity of its passengers ? removed 10 individuals who appeared to be Middle Eastern from American Airline flights as alleged security risks. On March 1, 2004, American Airlines settled the case for $1.5 million.
The Department of Transportation also charged Continental Airlines with discriminating against passengers who appeared to be Arab, Middle Eastern or Muslim after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In April 2004, Continental Airlines settled the complaint for $500,000.
Like many of you, I carefully reviewed the lawsuits against the airlines in order to determine which airlines had engaged in the most egregious discrimination, so I could fly only that airline. But oddly, rather than bragging about the charges, the airlines heatedly denied discriminating against Middle Eastern passengers. What a wasted marketing opportunity! Imagine the great slogans the airlines could use:
"Now Frisking All Arabs ? Twice!"
"More Civil-Rights Lawsuits Brought by Arabs Than Any Other Airline!"
"The Friendly Skies ? Unless You're an Arab"
"You Are Now Free to Move About the Cabin ? Not So Fast, Mohammed!"
Worst of all, the Department of Transportation ordered the settlement money to be spent on civil-rights programs to train airline staff to stop looking for terrorists, a practice known as digging your own grave and paying for the shovel. Airlines that have been the most vigilant against terrorism are forced by the government into re-education seminars to learn to suppress common sense. Airlines are being forced, at their own expense, to make commercial air travel more dangerous.
If John Kerry would promise to fire Norman Mineta and start racial profiling at the airports, I would campaign for him. Unfortunately, like George Bush, Kerry doesn't travel commercial air with the little people.