That an Arab-American Secret Service agent assigned to guard President Bush was bumped off an American Airlines flight from Baltimore to Dallas on Christmas Day is an appalling example of outright bigotry no amount of spin-doctoring can remedy.
The agent, who was flying to Dallas en route to protect the president at Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch, was asked to get off the plane after the pilot allegedly found a discrepancy in paperwork required whenever an armed law enforcement officer travels with a weapon. It's understandable that airlines are extra cautious because of the Sept. 11 attacks, but this incident stinks to high heaven.
American Airlines claims the pilot found unspecified inconsistencies between required documents the agent filed for an earlier flight that was canceled and papers for the flight he was kicked off.
The Arab-American Secret Service agent submitted to additional security checks by the pilot, airline officials and airport police, but the pilot wasn't satisfied and the man was booted from the flight.
The agent, whose name wasn't released because of security concerns, told the Council on Islamic-American Relations that he wasn't even allowed aboard to retrieve his jacket after the pilot said, "I don't want him back on that plane."
Federal law enforcement agents regularly travel armed aboard commercial flights, and airlines are notified in advance that an agent will be carrying a weapon. Additionally, agents must pass through several credential and identification checks and routinely introduce themselves to the pilot or copilot.
Unfortunately, it's not the first time a fed has been kicked off a commercial flight from Baltimore. An FBI spokesman told The Associated Press that a pilot refused to allow an armed FBI agent to board a flight shortly after Sept. 11.
The Secret Service is investigating the incident. Good. Here are some facts the feds might keep in mind: American Airlines is engaged in interstate commerce and it is a public carrier, subject to the Civil Rights Act.
It took a bloody civil war and the sacrifices of freedom riders, lunch-counter protesters and voter-registration activists, as well as progressive legislation, to ensure Americans won't be judged by race or creed. No bigot with wings should be allowed to undo principles won at such cost.