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Grapevine Whine - Where Old News Is New News

Reported by Nancy - December 31, 2005 -

Jim Angle, still substituting for anchor Brit Hume on Special Report, wrapped up the week on the Grapevine segment with an unsubtle attack on the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), one of FNC's favorite targets. On Friday night (12/30) he led off the segment with an item that dragged up a year-old lawsuit over a 3-year-old Transportation Security Administration pilot program in behavioral screening, & pretended it was all happening now.

Here's "picking" #1:

The Transportation Security Administration's effort to train security screeners at 40 major airports to analyze actions instead of race to identify suspicious travelers has come under fire from the ACLU despite previous support for similar proposals. In a letter to Congress last year, the group urged law enforcement to act based "on the observation of an individual's behavior" & one local ACLU branch recently passed a resolution that "sends a clear message to officers that stops & detentions should be based upon behavior, not general characteristics." But, now that the TSA is doing exactly that, the group has filed a lawsuit in MA to block the use of behavior detection with the ACLU's director of privacy rights saying that is "a code word for targeting brown-skinned males" between the ages of 17 & 45. It's not only racial profiling, he argues, it's ethnic profiling.

Comments: First, as always, note the language (emphasis added):

1) "previous support for similar proposals ... the TSA is doing exactly that " -- well, which is it? Is it "similar" or is it "exactly that"?

2) "one local ACLU branch " -- sufficiently vague so that it's nearly impossible to verify (if any reader has the time or inclination to check all 50-odd "local branches" of the ACLU, be my guest).

3) "a letter to Congress last year ... recently passed ... now that the TSA is ... has filed a lawsuit ... he argues ..." -- Angle may have gotten the timing right about the letter, but the implication of the latter part of this "pickig" with its use of present-tense words is misleading at best.

Angle's "picking" could have been lifted straight from a number of reactionary websites, such as "Renew America" which currently has as its featured article an anti-ACLU rant dated 12/29/05 called "ACLU Sides Wit h The Enemy -- Again" which includes this snippet:

According to TSA officials, security officers at major airports across the country will be trained next year to use "casual conversation" to flush out possible terrorists. They will first teach officers what suspicious behaviors to look for in travelers. These can include nervousness, wearing a big coat in the summer or reluctance to make eye contact with law enforcement. Then, the officers carry on a supposedly casual conversation with passengers in hopes of spotting possible terrorists or to determine whether further scrutiny of a passenger is required.

Wearing a big coat in the summertime seems so painfully obvious it's laughable that anyone would have to be "trained" to spot it. But nervousness? Reluctance to make eye contact?

So let's look at the lawsuit the ACLU actually filed. As it turns out, it's the ACLU of Massachusetts that has sued to stop a behavior-screening program run by the Massachusetts State Police at Logan International Airport in Boston since 2002 . The press release describing the lawsuit is dated 11/20/04 & includes these paragraphs:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts today filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a so-called "behavioral assessment" program adopted by the Massachusetts Port Authority and the Massachusetts state police to stop and detain people for questioning at Logan Airport.
Behavioral profiling has been used as the basis for stopping passengers since 2002 when Massport announced that State Police troopers at Logan Airport were being trained by an outside security consultant. The procedures were subsequently incorporated into the state police "Behavior Assessment Screening System" used at Logan and other locations. It was recently reported that B.A.S.S. is being used as a model by the Transportation Security Administration, which will soon launch a similar program nationwide, entitled SPOT ("Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques").
There is a link to the lawsuit at the bottom of the press release.

Other groups & individuals also see flaws in this program being implemented at some 40 airports nationwide For example, The Independent Institute offers an analysis that includes this paragraph:

As if being asked to strip off shoes, coats, belts and other clothing before going through a metal detector and getting your personal belongings x-rayed is not enough, the TSA will begin psychoanalyzing air travelers in 40 major airports next year. TSA screeners, who are not even fully trained law enforcement personnel, let alone professional psychologists, will perform behavior analysis screening on all passengers. The screeners will look for “suspicious” signs that might indicate a passenger could be a terrorist: having dry lips or a throbbing carotid artery (I’m not kidding), failure to make eye contact with or say hello to the screener, or evasive or slow answers to casual questions asked by the screener. Travelers who exhibit such nefarious characteristics will undergo extra physical searches—the infamous “pat down” frisk and bag rummage—and could even face police questioning.

And the Detroit Free Press has an editorial about the new airport screening plan that leads with this:

New plan should undergo public scrutiny
December 30, 2005
Agitation among travelers may not be the best indication of a security threat. With all the hoops passengers have to jump through -- and all the layers and shoes they have to shed -- hopping a flight across country isn't the most relaxing experience in the world.
So the Transportation Security Administration's experiment in eyeballing nervous passengers to screen out potential terrorists is dubious at best.
Even more outrageous, the TSA will keep secret demographic data on the people it screens in this manner. This is a recipe for racial profiling.

Did the researchers at FNC not do their homework? What is newsworthy about a 1-year-old lawsuit over TSA practices that have been used since 2002?

Why single out the ACLU & this old lawsuit? Because FNC absolutely detests the all-American values for which the ACLU has always fought.

If you'd like to complain to Fox about this, email: special@foxnews.com

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (Special Report's treatment of this "picking" or the ACLU or TSA in general). O/T comments will be deleted. Thanks.