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Crack Air Marshals

Also via Larry Lessig, via John Gilmore (earlier blog entry here) comes word of a settlement in a disturbing case involving the Transportation Security Administration:

Dr. [Bob] Rajcoomar's disturbing ordeal began shortly after take off during a flight from Atlanta to Philadelphia on August 31, 2002, when U.S. Air Marshals were called to subdue an apparently disoriented man seated in the coach section. The air marshals rushed at the unstable individual, handcuffed him, and then dragged him to the first-class section, where they placed him in the seat next to Dr. Rajcoomar, a U.S. citizen and Lt. Colonel in the United States Army Reserve and is of Indian descent. Dr. Rajcoomar asked to have his seat changed and the flight attendant obliged. For the remainder of the flight, air marshals held passengers at gunpoint and refused to allow anyone to get up, even to use the bathroom, despite the fact that the disoriented passenger had been shackled to his seat.

The nightmare continued for Dr. Rajcoomar even after the flight landed. Air marshals handcuffed Dr. Rajcoomar without explanation and took him into the custody of Philadelphia police. His wife Dorothy, who was also on the flight, was given no information on what had happened to her husband. Because the authorities confiscated Dr. Rajcoomar's cellular phone, she had no way to contact him.

After four tense hours in detention, Dr. Rajcoomar was released. TSA personnel told him that he had been detained because air marshals on board the flight did not "like the way he looked." The agency's official explanation for Dr. Rajcoomar’s treatment is that while on board, Dr. Rajcoomar had been observing the actions of the air marshals "too closely."

Even if one were to believe the official explanation over the explanation Dr. Rajcoomar reported receiving -- and I don't -- if someone is holding a loaded weapon near you, how exactly is it possible to observe them "too closely"?

The good news is that Dr. Rajcoomar has received a written apology and an undisclosed "substantial" settlement. But there's no word as to what actions, if any, were taken against the two US air marshals responsible for his detention.


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