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Inquiry into Secret Service agent barred from flight



CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- President Bush said Friday that he would be "madder than heck" if an Arab-American Secret Service agent was barred from boarding a commercial airline flight due to his ethnicity.

Bush said an inquiry was being conducted into the specifics of the incident in which an American Airlines pilot did not allow the agent, who was armed, to board a flight to Texas, where the agent was to join the security detail at President Bush's ranch.

"But if he was treated that way because of his ethnicity, that will make me madder than heck," the president said.

The agent is now part of the Secret Service detail at the president's 1,600-acre ranch in Crawford. Bush said he spoke to the agent Friday morning and told him "how proud I was that he was by my side."

An American Airlines spokesman said the pilot was troubled by "inconsistencies" in the paperwork required for the agent to carry a weapon on the aircraft

The Secret Service confirmed that an agent, whom it would not identify, was asked to leave a flight from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Dallas, Texas.

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The pilot was not satisfied with the responses of the agent, who was armed and in civilian clothes, said Jim Mackin, a Secret Service spokesman.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said the agent asked the airline to call the Secret Service to verify his identity. Even when local transit police vouched for the agent, the pilot refused to let him board the plane, the council said.

The agent eventually was sent to another American Airlines flight, but was banned from boarding the aircraft because he had been reported for "suspicious activity," according to the council.

The agent ultimately took yet another flight to Texas.

Secret Service agents who fly aboard commercial jets must disclose their identity and any weapons they intend to carry on board, according to current protocol.

It is not unusual for authorities to question agents about their weapons, officials said, but these matters are typically resolved without incident.

An American Airlines spokesman said the company stands behind its pilot, saying he took appropriate action to protect his aircraft, passengers and crew.

Federal Aviation Administration regulations allow a pilot to remove anyone from a flight if the pilot believes the person poses a security risk.

The FAA has cautioned officials not to overuse this authority following a rash of alleged racial profiling incidents following the September 11 attacks. The Department of Transportation has reported about 20 complaints concerning passengers being removed from flights because of their ethnicity.

The FAA directive told authorities "not to target or otherwise discriminate against passengers based on their race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion, or based on passengers' names or modes of dress that could be indicative of such classification."



 
 
 
 


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