Step Two: The Lawsuit

This week, the ACLU of Michigan filed a lawsuit on my behalf to hold the parties responsible for arresting and detaining me on 9/11/11 for “suspicious behavior” on a flight from Denver to Detroit.

That “suspicious behavior” seems to mean having an Arabic last name and sitting next to two men of South Asian descent. Nothing more. You can read about the experience I had in a previous blog post.

The ACLU, working in tandem with lawyers from the national ACLU office and private attorneys from two firms, have made the claims through the lawsuit that my constitutional rights were violated and I was racially profiled. You find a summary of the claim at the ACLU’s website.

Here’s an excerpt:

Through public records, the ACLU discovered that Hebshi was removed from the flight because she was seated next to the men and because of her ethnic name. A small number of passengers noticed the two men go to the bathroom in succession and complained to the flight crew. The two men were cleared of any wrongdoing and were also released from custody later that evening.

The complaint cites a number of violations, including unreasonable search and seizure prohibited by the Fourth Amendment, and discrimination prohibited by the federal civil rights laws. The lawsuit was filed against Frontier Airlines as well as officials with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Wayne County Airport Authority, Detroit Metro Airport Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).

We held a press conference in Detroit on Tuesday announcing the case and explaining the reasons for taking action. I made a statement, which you can read in full on the ACLU’s blog here.

Here’s an excerpt:

This, certainly, was a difficult day for me, but I also recognize that many others have experienced similar horrors because of racial profiling. Through this lawsuit, I hope to reclaim the dignity that is taken from us when racial profiling trumps the American values of fairness and equality.

I appreciate the tremendous support I have received from friends, family and strangers who feel as outraged as I am that this happened. And I hope that through this lawsuit not only will public awareness grow of this issue, but some changes will be implemented into the system so innocent people are not targeted as criminals.

Here are some of the media reports since Tuesday’s press conference:


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  1. Just by coincidence I read about what happened to you and I really wish that after the lawsuit the conclusion will be that what happened was completely out of line, very insulting and humiliating for you as person.

    Kind regards,
    Rob Berkers

  2. DJC

     /  February 18, 2013

    Shoshana, what was done to you and the two men is a disgrace.
    In the 1970s — the Nixon era and a bit later — I sometimes had long hair and a beard, and was repeatedly stopped and searched before getting on domestic flights. I was strip-searched (as was my girlfriend) and detained incommunicado for 4 hours on entering the USA from a trip to Europe. That time, the young border officer who guarded me while they searched my friend quietly told me “I wish I could help, but they’re only doing this because you’re young and because of your appearance”.
    Prejudice and paranoia have a life of their own.

  3. DJC

     /  February 19, 2013

    Yes: I got in touch with my Congressional representative, the wonderful Bella Abzug, and told her the whole story. She pursued it with the relevant authorities. They denied everything, and there was no further to take it.
    That wasn’t the last time I was searched and detained at a US airport; and though I’ve traveled to the old Soviet Union and socialist Eastern Europe, all over Western Europe, Africa, the middle East, and Israel, I’ve never been so badly, rudely, or arrogantly treated as at US airports. It’s been … educational.
    None of it is as grossly racist and stupid as how you were treated. But all of it, including your treatment, makes me angry. And it’s all so pointless, because none of this makes the slightest difference in domestic security: it’s pure theater, enacted by ignorant, petty people for the benefit of other ignorant, petty people.


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