The New Jersey store clerk whose tip lead to the arrest of six terror suspects needs legislative protection from being sued as a "John Doe" or whistleblower, lawmakers said yesterday.
"The events in Fort Dix are just another reminder of the need for this legislation," said Rep. Steve Pearce, New Mexico Republican and author of legislation to protect "John Doe" passengers being sued by a group of Muslim imams for reporting their suspicious behavior.
"We owe a debt of gratitude to this individual for alerting authorities to this potential terrorist attack and thwarting what could have been a terrible disaster. I can only imagine how grateful the men and women at Fort Dix and their families are for the courage of this person to take action when he saw something suspicious," Mr. Pearce said.
U.S. authorities arrested six foreign-born Muslims suspected of plotting to attack the New Jersey fort and kill "as many American soldiers as possible ... in the name of Allah." The FBI was alerted to the group by a clerk at the Circuit City store who had been asked to copy to DVD a video of the men test-firing weapons in the mountains and calling for jihad.
"If we didn't get that tip," said U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie in New Jersey, "I couldn't be sure what would happen."
M. Zuhdi Jasser, director of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, agrees that the FBI's arrests show the need to protect the principle of "see something, say something."
"What if this 'John Doe' had contrarily chosen to be silent due to a fear of litigation?" Dr. Jasser said.
Republican Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Rep. Peter King of New York used a procedural tactic to add the Pearce language to a rail and transportation security bill in March. The amendment passed unanimously by Republicans and had bipartisan support from 105 Democrats.
"A courageous act such as this one should not only be commended, it should be touted as a positive example of what citizens can do help prevent acts of terrorism here at home," Mr. Boehner said.
"It's critical that Democrats leave the Pearce language intact during conference negotiations so this kind of citizen participation is fostered and protected, not discouraged and litigated," Mr. Boehner said.
Drew Hammill, spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said "this is an issue for the conferees."
Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Terror Law Center at St. Mary's law school, says there are no protections in place for those who report crimes, and that they can be sued for violating constitutional rights or for racial discrimination.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
From the Washington Times
Posted by Audrey Hudson at Thursday, May 10, 2007