"FBI's release of ferry passenger photos resented"

Over at MM.com, I’ve been blogging about the FBI’s search for two suspicious men who’ve been photographed and observed by Washington state ferry employees engaging in strange behavior the past several weeks. The Seattle Times follows up today with a smallest violin concerto for Muslim activists who are…resentful:


For Arabs and Muslims across the Puget Sound area, a rise in the nation’s threat level or a bombing halfway around the world often can mark a period of unease.

In the years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, leaders in that community say incidents of profiling and harassment have ebbed and flowed — increasing when Muslims are linked to news of the day.

Now the FBI’s release of photographs of two men of unknown origin, who the agency says were observed acting suspiciously aboard as many as six different Washington ferry routes in recent weeks, is creating new worries in the community.

Muslim- and Arab-American leaders are upset that the FBI didn’t consult them — as it has done in other instances — before releasing the photos on the Internet and to news organizations. They worry that the action may fracture the relationship the agency and the community have carefully built.

The FBI has stressed that the release of the photos is a rare move, taken only after it had exhausted other efforts to identify the men. The agency also has said the men’s actions could be innocuous, but it needs to question them.

The photos were snapped by a ferry captain last month after crew members alerted him to suspicious activity. The men seemed inordinately interested in the operation of the vessel, took photographs of the interiors of the boats and went into areas tourists and commuters don’t normally go, the FBI has said. The agency has received many tips but has not yet found the men.

Dozens of Muslims and Arabs have complained to community leaders about the photographs. The fallout has led to a meeting planned today between Muslim- and Arab-American community leaders and law-enforcement officials.

“We need to get some type of apology from them and figure out how to get back to where we were,” said Rita Zawaideh, head of the Arab-American Community Coalition.


Yes, for doing proactive work and seeking out the public’s help, the FBI must apologize. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

Meanwhile, the Seattle P-I’s managing editor is still doing what newspaper managers do best in times of crisis and danger: Talk about themselves. David McCumber trots out the well-worn Benjamin Franklin quote about “essential liberty” and “temporarary (sic) safety.” At least he didn’t Dowdify the quote.

Elsewhere at the P-I, the all-important haiku editor has moved on from mocking homeland security to weightier issues:

Banning baggy pants.

No, I don’t miss the Seattle journalism scene one bit.

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