Big thanks to anti-amnesty all star Noam Askew for catching this and tipping me. The AP reported this morning that the new Homeland Security bill had been all hammered out in conference committee — except for one niggling provision that they couldn’t quite agree upon. Twelve hours later, they’ve agreed:
The last obstacle was cleared when negotiators crafted language to satisfy a Republican demand giving immunity from lawsuits to people who report suspicious behavior. The issue grew out of an incident last fall where six Muslim scholars were removed from a flight in Minneapolis after other passengers said they were acting suspiciously. The imams have since filed a lawsuit, saying their civil rights were violated.
God only knows what the GOP has accepted by way of “satisfaction.” Keep your eye on the Washington Times. We’ll hear soon enough.
Update: The Sun’s got it but, maddeningly, without a description of the language. Take it as a good sign that Boehner and Peter King announced that the agreement had been reached, though. They wouldn’t be crowing if they had caved.
The final disagreement centered on the language of the bill. The Democratic chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, supported the provision but wanted to limit the immunity protection to those who report activity that is specifically terrorist-related.
Mr. King yesterday rejected such a limitation, saying it would “negate the whole bill.”
“It totally undermines the whole amendment because how is a private citizen able to make a decision about whether or not suspicious activity they see is going to be for a terrorist crime or an ordinary crime?” he said in an interview yesterday afternoon. “If they see somebody buying explosives, how do they know it’s going to be for terrorist purposes, not just an ordinary crime?”
Update: Still no language but it sounds awfully good.
After nearly a week of intense, behind-the-scenes wrangling, congressional negotiators late Tuesday agreed to include in the pending Sept. 11 security bill sweeping liability protections for citizens who report suspicious activity they fear might be linked to terrorism…
“This is a huge win — a hard-fought victory for House Republicans and, more importantly, for the American people,” King said.
“In a post-9/11 reality, vigilance is essential to security. Despite the Democratic opposition to this important homeland security measure, I’m thrilled to announce that common sense has prevailed and heroic Americans who report suspicious activity will be protected from frivolous lawsuits. The American people were heard and our country is safer because of it.”
The man to thank, besides King himself: Joe Lieberman.
Update: And not a moment too soon.
Update: Here’s the final language.