It’s about our rights

It’s been a week since I posted to this blog about my experience being taken from my flight to Detroit and detained for “suspicious activity.” The response to the post has been overwhelming and, for the most, part supportive.

I have done several interviews with media outlets and have subsequently written a few accounts for other publications, but I kept coming back to the idea that the story is not about me. It’s about our rights. We live in a country that was founded on distinct principles of freedom and democracy. We have a constitution to protect those tenets. There is nothing clearer than that.

What happened to me violates those rights–specifically the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The attention my blog post received clearly demonstrates the need for continued dialogue and action about where we stand as a country in making sure all Americans’ rights are preserved. There are ways to ensure safety and protect our rights. We need to find a balance.

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25 Comments

  1. I did not respond to your last week’s post because you’d already received such overwhelming responses. But I did a mini-dissertation / paper at Ball State in 2003 involving Racial Profiling Post-9/11, and among my biggest concerns was the idea that, if we say it’s okay to be scared and then do these random harassment searches, providing nothing to the harassed except half-assed apologies later (if even that), we make it okay for every 5th, 10th, 20th, …. Anniversary of 9/11 to become a fearmonger’s paradise. That 50+ incidents occurred on 9/11/11 where terror plots were falsely reported only goes to show that announcing a week prior to the anniversary that the government feared 9/11 reprisals was poor leadership at best. The government should have handled the search for such plots itself, without public announcement, and should not overly trust everyday citizens to treat the Constitution with the same regard our government is expected to. Everyday Americans are as prone to racist, bigoted fears as anyone else, and we shouldn’t trust supposed eyewitnesses over our better judgment. At least that’s one man’s opinion. Thanks for posting about this subject, though I understand the experience must have been one you wish you hadn’t had to write and speak so frequently about.

    Reply
  2. What happened to you is truly unfortunate and some meaningful action should be taken to ensure that such obvious overreactions can never happen again to innocent American citizens.

    That said.

    I don’t really have a problem with the way the FBI/DHS handled the situation: they received a report and, due to the oprevious intel they had that a plot would go down on a plane that day, they had the plane shadowed to the ground and the people deemed suspicious were briefly questioned and then released when nothing out of the ordinary was found.

    The problem, I feel, with the situation is the reaction of the local police. The rushing of the plane wasn’t necessary, the machineguns weren’t necessary, the handcuffs weren’t necessary, the vow of silence wasn’t necessary and the strip search in the grody police cell certainly wasn’t necessary. Combine that with the bragging they were doing about their overtime pay and it’s not at all hard for me to imagine that they took a simple order from DHS (“bring these three people in for questioning”) to mean treat them as enemy combattants because they’re racists who like money. While that identifies clear corruption in the Detroit police department, I don’t see it as a systemic, national problem. It strikes me that a great deal of tension in the situation could have easily been avoided if any of the police had taken ten seconds to explain that DHS was on the way, there would be questioning and if everything checked out everything would be over in a few hours. Holding an innocent woman without charge and keeping her at submachinegun point is a clear abuse of power that should not be tolerated.

    Just my opinion. You did quite well in a very stressful situation, I can’t say I would have done the same.

    Reply
    • Randy

       /  September 21, 2011

      The lady never left her assigned seat. Which means there was no reasonable suspicious behavior on her part to legally remove “her” into custody. When it became clear to the FBI that the suspicion wasn’t on her the process was allowed to continue. At that point its clear to me the FBI violated her 4th amendment rights. I still don’t understand at the tail end of this why she was finger printed. If the men were white males do you think that paranoid passengers would have focused on their bathroom habits?

      Reply
  3. Rights of citizen must be preserved according to constitution. Even in case of emergency or in a matter of nation security, these rights must not be violated fully. There should be a balance between these.
    Soshana, I heard about your detention on the day of 10th anniversary of 9/11 event. It was a very bad day in the history of democratic superpower Americans.
    My source of information was http://t.co/0koQFLY7

    Reply
  4. Again, I am terribly saddened by what I read. I have dealt with racial profiling when I lived in Michigan. I now stay in Arizona and here it is the Hispanics that are racially profiled. I am truly sorry for your experience as well as the experiences of others in your position., May God Bless you and your family and keep you strong. Please continue to fight for your rights as well as ours. Peace be with you.

    Reply
  5. Thank you for being a part of the fight for freedom and liberty, and, in matters of safety and security, a little common sense.

    Reply
  6. Uh, well, if we start an argument on whether or not sitting next to people who go to the bathroom on an airplane represents reasonable suspicion of terrorist activity, I think we all lose. I fear to tread on this debate lest we all go truly through the looking glass, and never return.

    As for the fingerprinting, the FBI, DHS, and law enforcement in general want everyone fingerprinted and will hop at any and every excuse to make that happen, no matter who you are or what color your skin is. No, paranoid crew likely would not have called it in if it was white people using the bathroom, because the public perception somehow is that an Arab is more likely to be islamist (and thus more likely to be radically islamist) than a white person. That reasoning always struck me as dangerous since logic would suggest radical islamist groups would attempt to recruit people that don’t look Arab specifically for that reason. Anyway, DHS has put forth training materials that make basically the same point, and it drove Republicans crazy which was pretty entertaining. (youtube has a Michael Savage rant about it, if you like around-the-bend nutbars with your coffee.) I chalk it up to an overzealous flight crew more concerned for their own safety than strangers’ civil rights. I’m fairly confident that, had the “flagged” passengers merely been politely escorted off the plane, driven to an office and questioned politely by federal employees for a few hours, this wouldn’t be news. The upsetting part is the arrest and subsequent imprisonment without charge, the impatous for which appears to be little more than a desire to get paid extra and probably some racism as well on the part of the local cops.

    Reply
  7. Randy

     /  September 21, 2011

    Below was part of the official statement released from the airlines. “Two gentlemen only” Was it a mistake to pull Shoshana or did someone add her to the list? If she was added to the list then its a reasonable assumption it was because of her heritage. Someone sitting in their assigned seat minding their own business isn’t debatable. It’s self evident. No law exists that overrides the constitution. Yet every agency and the airlines justified THEMSELVES. This will be a interesting case if it goes to court

    “The crew on Frontier Airlines flight 623 followed security protocols on Sunday, spokesman Peter Kowalchuk said in an email Wednesday to The Associated Press.
    The crew “responded to concerns expressed by passengers on their aircraft about the suspicious activity of two gentlemen . and only two gentlemen,” Kowalchuk said. “

    Reply
    • There appears to be an argument between agencies as to who decided to remove Ms. Hebshi from the plane with the two gentlemen. I wonder if it is the fact that she has bravely chosen to speak out that they are pointing fingers at each other. I am saddened and frightened that so many are so comfortable forfeiting so much under the guise of safety. There is no reasonable explanation for the events that Ms. Hebshi described, and no agency has indicated that what she described is not accurate. I commend her for continuing to speak about the unspeakable acts she was subjected to in the name of safety.

      Reply
  8. Thank you so much for blogging about your painful experience, and for being open to doing interviews to open this topic up to the public (I am totally IN AWE at the coverage from Huffinton, the Atlantic AND the Economist. Gush. And the DM Register, too, I suppose).

    I was wondering if you had any ideas of better ways to tackle the security situation. I just flew the other day, and was watching as travelers grumbled at having to remove more and more article of clothing (though, happily, children can now leave their shoes on), and stand through the creepy scanner (though I got to go through the plain old metal detector).

    Our security methods seem to all be reactionary. Shoe bomber? So now we take of our shoes. Underwear bomber? So we get a full-body scan. But our seemingly inability to predict or accurate assess who is the enemy, so to speak, has exacerbated our fears, and brought out ugly prejudices.

    I also wonder if the security at the airport is up to the task of really assessing risk. While I certainly appreciate all the hard work they are doing, sometimes I wonder, with the sheer numbers of travelers, how do they find the scary bad guys amid all those people? And how do we ensure that our security agents are not prejudiced? Is there a screening?

    Also also, I really hope, as I read in the Atlantic article, that perhaps someday there will be a mechanism to release the names of those who falsely accuse, perhaps to give everyone a bit of pause before they finger someone who takes too long in the bathroom.

    Reply
    • I read an article my sister-in-law sent me yesterday about a man who refused to be searched going through TSA at the San Diego airport last weekend. He got so angry that he removed himself from the line, got a refund for his airplane ticket and left.
      People are not happy about our process of ensuring security at airports, and this has been well documented. So where do we find a balance between really securing ourselves and overdoing it? I hope as a society we really can address these concerns. — Shoshana

      Reply
      • Randy

         /  September 24, 2011

        The upfront security checks are known beforehand. And as for me I agree with them.
        As far as taking people off the plane by force “I” think a crime needs to be reported. Threats, weapons, overheard plots etc.
        If you think about it your flight completed and still nothing happened and all you had was excessive bathroom use from one man. What were they investigating? Something that didn’t happen? How long does it take to check the bathrooms?
        Randy

        Reply
      • Shoshana–I am actually encouraged that this man was reportedly allowed to remove himself from the line. I was under the impression that once you were targeted for search you had no options that would result in less than being removed to a “room elsewhere.” I will see if I can track down the story. I am sad to say that I would make a small wager that his complexion is likely closer to my fair skin than to your olive skin. I can only hope I am wrong.

        Reply
  9. Randy

     /  September 23, 2011

    I don’t have a problem with upfront security checks. Body scanners etc… All it takes is a planned attack fueled by “hate” to cause alot of death. I also don’t have a problem with someone detained in a respectful and dignified manner for just cause. If no crime was witnessed and no active crime scene exists at the “most” extreme point a pat down detention without cuffs and a explanation of why that was happening can be warranted and would ease the fear of a detainee. They can even ask if you want a soda or do you need to use the restroom even though they can’t let you go. (Treated with respect and dignity) I don’t see that in your case. There was no just cause to pull you off that aircraft and I was outraged for you.

    Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil by “good”

    Randy

    Reply
  10. I am not at all proud of the way this country, my country, your country handled the 9/11 aftermath. Your experience is something that should have never happened to anyone. Your ability to write about it & still say that you “hope as a society we really can address these concerns” is admirable. An awful way to break into the big time of being featured in The Atlantic, The Economist, etc. However, I do hope you (hate to phrase it this way) are able to get the best mileage that you can towards your future in journalism from the interest they are taking in you due to your unfair treatment.

    Reply
    • Uncle Mike

       /  September 24, 2011

      Kitty, my sentiments exactly that this will be a win for Shosh and a win for the “American way”. This vital conversation about what does freedom/democracy/justice/respect/dignity look like in our country, via social networking, could be historic.

      Shoshana has joined the ranks of heroes from the past and present who had/have the courage and commitment to take a stand against what isn’t RIGHT. Though this amount of exposure for her is risky and uncomfortable, it may do wonders for her career. Doors of opportunities around the world may open for her talents as a perspective, insightful, and honest writer.

      You go girl, and concerned citizens of this country!

      Reply
      • Uncle Mike

         /  September 24, 2011

        Correction; I meant PERCEPTIVE not PERSPECTIVE.

        Reply
      • I have the utmost respect for Shoshana continuing to discuss the events. The light must be shown on these things over and over until we decide there is a line we should not cross just to feel safe.

        Reply
  11. Randy

     /  September 26, 2011

    “To me” and I am a US citizen, as long as I view all agencies justifying their actions in “this” case that’s not a apology.

    If one stated we messed up and what happened shouldn’t have happened and the process will be reviewed to keep such error from happening again and their very sorry someone went through that experience then that’s what I see as a apology. People should be treated as they want to be treated.

    Reply
    • Uncle Mike

       /  September 26, 2011

      AMEN to that Randy. Treating each other like decent human beings would be a great start on the road to recovery, healing, and global “heart warming”.

      Reply
      • Randy

         /  September 27, 2011

        Thanks Mike, My perfection training comes from the New Testament.I take those words seriously. I also believe a loving God is impartial.

        Now in my mind as long as the agencies involved believe they did no wrong in this case then corrective legal action is warranted and justified. (About our rights) Not vengeance

        However if the agencies admitted they made a mistake and overstepped what they are allowed to do (in this case) and take steps to make sure a just cause does exist before someone is forced off a aircraft that would tell me no legal corrective action is required.

        The FBI is a large agency with many people. I have a hunch there are seasoned agents that don’t agree with how this case was handled.

        It also didn’t escape my notice that none of the flight crew spoke up for Shoshana when she was taken off the plane with the two men.

        Randy

        Randy

        Reply
  12. Ms. Hebshi,

    I understand that you have experienced an overwhelming amount of response and feedback but hopefully you still have the energy to entertain another request. I am the president of the ACLU chapter at The Ohio State University College of Law and we are interested in having a discussion dealing with the rights that have been infringed upon post-9/11. We know our students would love to have you come down and speak to us and share your firsthand experience sometime in November, if possible. Please let me know if you’re interested.

    -Thanks!

    Reply
  13. Stephen

     /  February 28, 2012

    As a British person, one thing that particularly strikes me is the brutality of your treatment. I suppose it’s a cultural difference and perhaps to Americans it does not appear as extreme as it does to me. Handcuffs are not routinely used in the UK and very rarely on unresisting arrestees. So to handcuff someone’s arms behind their back and leave them like that for hours on end, even when they are locked up in a holding cell and are no threat whatsoever, seems barbaric and in my opinion would constitute torture. Perhaps it is intended to imtimidate and to soften up before interrogation? Anyway, I hope that your experience does shame the authorities into being more reasonable and proportionate in their future responses to alleged ‘threats’.

    Reply

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