Joel Mowbray

The ACLU’s strongest argument was that the NFL instituted its pat-down policy absent any specific threat.  Yet terrorist attacks rarely occur after authorities have learned of a specific threat.  The London bombings, notably, came less than a week after British officials had lowered the threat level.  9/11, as everyone now knows, caught intelligence officials flat-footed, having never imagined the possibility of hijacked planes being flown into buildings.

If anything, terror attacks are least likely to occur after authorities learn of a specific threat.  Increased, visible security efforts are known to have deterred more than one attack, including one targeting the Brooklyn Bridge.  In fact, though it is impossible to know for sure since it is not the sort of thing officials would admit, it appears that none of the post-9/11 terror attacks (outside Israel) had been predicted by specific threats received by law enforcement beforehand.

Ironically, not far from the courthouse where Judge Perry Little issued his ruling last week halting security searches is the ongoing terrorism trial of alleged Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) higher-up Sami al-Arian.  (In the “it’s a small world, after all” category, Judge Little dismissed a civil suit brought against al-Arian in 2002 by investigative journalist and former prosecutor John Loftus.)

PIJ, of course, is one of the world’s leaders in suicide bombings—precisely the kind of attack the NFL policy is aimed at thwarting.  And al-Arian is only one of the terror arrests that have been made since 9/11 in the sunshine state.  Before then, a number of the Sept. 11 hijackers spent time in Florida.

What, then, did Judge Little make of the threat posed by the substantial, ongoing presence of suspected terrorists within a few hours drive of the Tampa stadium?  Apparently, not much.  His ruling was a preliminary injunction, which can only be granted if the judge believes there’s a good chance that the plaintiff will win at trial.

Assuming Judge Little continues siding with the ACLU and strikes down searches as unconstitutional, it is a safe bet that the Tampa Sports Authority, which operates the stadium, will appeal. 

Even if the prohibition on pat-downs is somehow upheld, the TSA could follow the lead of the Cincinnati Bengals, which only implemented the new policy after the team agreed to pick up the tab for the increased security—which would arguably make the searches private, and not public, action.  Then again, few experts had predicted the ACLU’s suit would prevail.

In the meantime, it seems that fans attending the next Bucs’ home game this Sunday will be able to walk past security without any sort of pat-down search.  This might spare Johnston “humiliation,” but is it likely to make any of the 65,000-plus other fans in attendance any safer?

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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