No smooching on the airplane

U.S. anti-terror law rounds up rude passengers—not hijackers

Introduced two months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. Patriot Act is supposed to give police and prosecutors the power they need to identify—and arrest—aspiring terrorists before they strike. But seven years later, the controversial law has done a much better job of nabbing rude airline passengers than would-be hijackers. According to newly released figures, more than 200 people have been convicted under the Patriot Act for offences that have nothing to do with terrorism—from drinking too much to using foul language. In one case, a couple was arrested after an argument with a flight attendant, who claimed the pair was engaged in “overt sexual activity.” (An FBI affidavit said the two were “embracing, kissing and acting in a manner that made other passengers uncomfortable.”) “We have gone completely berserk on this issue,” says Charles Slepian, a New York security consultant. “These are not threats to national security or threats to aircraft, but we use that as an excuse.”

Los Angeles Times