April 1, 2005, - 8:11 pm
Do overbearing, shoe-removing searches at the airport make you feel safe? How about the crisp black and white uniforms of screeners since Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) took over?
Sadeq Naji Ahmed is Exhibit A that you are not safer, that the TSA isn’t screening the screeners. He’s also proof positive that radical Muslims in the military can get away with saying anything, while other soldiers cannot.
For almost two years, Ahmed was a baggage screener at Detroit’s Metro Airport, despite his frightening background.
Ahmed, a Yemeni Muslim since indicted in federal court in Detroit, was honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force. That might seem well and good, but the circumstances behind the discharge aren’t so honorable.
Between 1999 and the 9/11 attacks, Ahmed—then an airman stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida—made statements in support of Osama Bin Laden, said he was not against the 9/11 attacks, that the U.S. deserved to be attacked, that he wouldn’t fight if the U.S. took action in Iraq, and that U.S. aircraft over Iraq should crash.
Ahmed was an information systems analyst with security clearances—not a position optimally occupied by an America-hating, Bin Laden booster.
Because of Ahmed’s statements, his security clearance to classified information and restricted areas of the base was suspended on September 17, 2001, and he was assigned administrative duty. On September 28, 2001—even though he had two months to go on his tour of duty—Ahmed was given an expedited honorable discharge, in order to effect Ahmed’s “removal from the U.S. military as quickly as possible,” according to his indictment. Rather than do the right thing and court-martial him, the Air Force made his life easier.
Unfortunately, the TSA quickly picked up this hot potato and kept him.
In December 2001, Ahmed became a baggage screener at Metro Airport, when it was handled by a private contractor. That’s bad enough.
Remember how the TSA was supposed to improve screening security and background checks for screeners, when it took over? In October 2002, BEFORE doing a background check on him, the TSA hired Ahmed. He lied on his application regarding the circumstances of his discharge and security clearance loss.
But the lies—for which he’s now being tried by a member of the U.S. Attorney’s Terrorism Task Force—weren’t discovered until August 2003, when Ahmed was terminated.
Almost a full year to do a background check before discovering lies on an application? Allowing the lying employee on the job for a year before he was screened? Isn’t the background check supposed to take place BEFORE the employee is hired?
Don’t you feel safer, now that TSA security is in place?
Incredibly, TSA spokeswoman Amy von Walter feels Ahmed’s case demonstrates the diligence of her agency’s background checks. “This incident highlights the importance of the in-depth background checks performed by the agency,” she told a Detroit newspaper.
No, the incident highlights the incompetence of the agency’s background checks and the absurdity that a pro-Bin Laden, anti-American employee could be on the job for nearly a year before that check is thoroughly conducted.
In the year before he was terminated, the disloyal Ahmed could have easily endangered American travelers’ lives—something to be expected given his pro-Bin Laden, anti-American statements. He could have easily allowed baggage containing explosives to pass undetected onto aircraft.
But the TSA isn’t the only government agency to blame for Ahmed’s almost two-year reign of possible danger to Americans. The Air Force deserves its fair share of blame.
Rather than court-martial and dishonorably discharge Ahmed, the Air Force took the meek course and set the stage for possible danger against civilian Americans flying the now not-so-friendly skies.
Had Ahmed been a non-Muslim, the government would have gotten tough.
Soldiers don’t have unfettered free speech rights. Article 134, known as the “Disloyal Statements” provision of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice provides for penalties by court-martial for “disloyal statements” made “with the intent to promote disloyalty or disaffection toward the United States by any member of the armed forces or to interfere with or impair the loyalty to the United States.”
Ahmed’s treasonous statements fit the U.S. government’s “Manual for Courts Martial‘s” definition of punishable disloyal statements, like a glove:
“Examples include praising the enemy, attacking the war aims of the United States . . . . A declaration of personal belief can amount to a disloyal statement if it disavows allegiance owed to the United States by the declarant.”
Unlike Ahmed, soldiers have been court-martialed and brought up on Article 134 “disloyal statement” charges for:
- A letter to the editor questioning the war in Iraq;
- Comments to a reporter questioning the war in Iraq, but saying he’d do his part and fight; and
- Telling other soldiers he would not fight in Vietnam if ordered to.
But those soldiers had one thing in common: Unlike Ahmed, they’re not Muslim. They didn’t get handled with politically correct kid gloves. And unlike Ahmed, not one of them praised the enemy and wished for America’s failure.
Yet, Ahmed was rewarded with an honorable discharge and evading his required duty, allowing him to get screening jobs at airports.
And courtesy of weak-kneed U.S. Air Force and incompetent TSA officials, Sadeq Naji Ahmed had almost a year to endanger American passengers lives.
We’re just lucky he didn’t.