Strib columnist: Flying imams stunt a ploy to get anti-profiling bill passed

Really? Piece this out for me: CAIR allegedly wants to engineer an incident it can sell to the public as evidence of discrimination and get the End Racial Profiling Act pushed through — and for the task it chooses a guy who admits that his mosque used to help out Osama Bin Laden, who’s been accused of raising money for Hamas, and who doubts that 9/11 was carried out by Muslims? And instead of just praying, he and the other five imams resort to hijack-type behavior that’s suspicious enough to spook multiple air marshals and pilots?

Doesn’t that actually make things more difficult for their Democratic allies in Congress? I can buy that CAIR would do this to raise their own profile; they probably are that stupid and it’s not like they have anything to lose in terms of reputation at this point. But they’ve got to know that this makes things considerably harder for Pelosi, Conyers, and Feingold in getting the bill passed. Not to mention the fact that grassroots pressure on Bush to veto the bill if it ever comes before him will be tremendous now, thanks in great part to this very incident.

Besides, the bill only applies to state actors. The draft sponsored by Conyers in 2004 provides:

No law enforcement agent or law enforcement agency shall engage in racial profiling…

LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY.—The term ‘‘law enforcement agency’’ means a Federal, State, local, or Indian tribal public agency engaged in the prevention, detection, or investigation of violations of criminal, immigration, or customs laws…

RACIAL PROFILING.—The term ‘‘racial profiling’’ means the practice of a law enforcement agent relying, to any degree, on race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin in selecting which individuals to subject to routine or spontaneous investigatory activities, or in deciding upon the scope and substance of law enforcement activity following the initial investigatory procedure, except when there is trustworthy information, relevant to the locality and timeframe, that links persons of a particular race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin to an identified criminal incident or scheme.

It would hamstring TSA and the air marshals, but on my reading, it doesn’t reach airline crews or private security so I’m not sure it would even deter what happened to the imams. There’s also some play in the joints of that bolded part, which clearly is meant to exempt FBI agents working on uncovering a terror plot but could be finessed. You have trustworthy information in the imam incident — multiple passenger accounts of ranting about Osama Bin Laden plus pilot and air marshall eyewitness reports of the imams sitting in hijacker formation. The hitch is the “identified criminal incident” bit. Would 9/11 count vis-a-vis the way they were sitting? A smart lawyer would say so.

Expect the GOP to target that bolded language if and when this comes to the floor.

Update: Almost forgot. Mahdi Bray figures prominently in the Strib column; the boss tangled with him on this subject on the Laura Ingraham show a few weeks ago. The audio’s here.