Columnist shreds Republican Senators for opposing no-fly list for violent airline passengers

Columnist shreds Republican Senators for opposing no-fly list for violent airline passengers
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Field Operations, officer assist a passenger with ticket scanning and taking biometric facial recognition photos prior to boarding a flight at Houston International Airport on February 12, 2018. ..Photographer: Donna Burton

The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday announced that it referred dozens of cases of disruptive passengers to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for potential criminal prosecution.

Although the FAA lacks the legal authority to charge people with crimes, it can impose fines of up to $37,000.

There have been more than 6,500 incidents on domestic airlines since January of 2021, the FAA told Fox Business. Only the “most egregious” disturbances were forwarded to the FBI, the agency said.

This year, there have been more than 500 skirmishes onboard aircraft. Most of them involved individuals who refused to adhere to the Transportation Security Administration’s mask mandate.

Earlier this month, Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian wrote a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting that the Department of Justice create a “no-fly list” for customers who were convicted of harming or endangering the safety of flight crews and their fellow passengers, citing DOJ’s “zero tolerance” policy toward violence on planes.

Banning rowdy passengers “will help prevent future incidents and serve as a strong symbol of the consequences of not complying with crew member instructions on commercial aircraft,” Bastian argued.

On Monday, however, an octet of Republican United States Senators – Cynthia M. Lummis (Wyoming), Mike Lee (Utah), James Lankford (Oklahoma), Marco Rubio (Florida), Rick Scott (Florida), Kevin Cramer (North Dakota), John Hoeven (North Dakota), and Ted Cruz (Texas) – contacted Garland and urged him to deny Bastian’s recommendation.

“Creating a federal ‘no-fly’ list for unruly passengers who are skeptical of this mandate would seemingly equate them to terrorists who seek to actively take the lives of Americans and perpetrate attacks on the homeland. The TSA was created in the wake of 9/11 to protect Americans from future horrific attacks, not to regulate human behavior onboard flights,” the lawmakers said.

“The creation of this list by DOJ would result in a severe restriction on the ability of citizens to fully exercise their constitutional right to engage in interstate transportation,” they added. “It also raises serious concerns about future unrelated uses and potential expansions of the list based on political pressures.”

Instead, the GOP Senators suggested that the airlines petition Congress.

The group's missive to Garland prompted conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin to read Republicans the riot act in a scathing editorial in Wednesday’s Washington Post.

“The Republican Party has completed its transition from the ‘law and order’ party to the party of thugs, violence, and harassment,” Rubin opined. “Only defenders of anti-mask thuggery would be unable to make the simple distinction between” terrorism and unruly in-flight behavior. “The problem of violence against airline personnel and disruptive conduct requiring pilots to turn flights around has become pervasive.”

And while the GOP colleagues technically condemned violence against flight personnel, “The no-fly list is not for people who simply grumble about mask-wearing,” Rubin noted. “Common sense measures to protect Americans against assault, threats of violence and other conduct that puts fellow Americans at risk should be universally applauded.”

Rubin pointed out that “in two separate incidents, one on American Airlines and the other on Delta Air Lines, unruly passengers attempted to open emergency doors in flight. Here’s an unpleasant truth for Republicans: Many of the people they are defending have engaged in violence and threats of violence. In other words, they have committed crimes,” adding that “it should come as no surprise that members of a party that has characterized a violent insurrection to overthrow an election as ‘legitimate political discourse’ oppose consequences for bad behavior on airplanes.”

Right-wing politicians, Rubin continued, “have repeatedly made clear that they are on the side of the thugs, from demonizing and mocking Capitol Police officers who defended lawmakers on Jan. 6 to defending Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) after he posted an animation on Twitter depicting the murder of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to heralding Canadian truckers who paralyze cities.”

Rubin then called upon Democrats to “stop being so timid and call out the GOP for its defense of violence, opposition to law enforcement and cheerleading for chaos” because “Republicans inspired by the defeated former president menace democracy and the safety of ordinary Americans.”

Therefore, she concluded, “Democrats from the White House on down should have no qualms about opposing Republican thuggery.”

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