War on Terror

They Also Questioned a Guy Who Was Seen Watching Independence Day About His Plans to Blow Up the White House

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A.P. reports that two "Middle Eastern" men who were flying from Orlando to San Diego on Saturday night were detained and questioned by the FBI during a stop in Phoenix based on "suspicious" behavior reported by a fellow passenger. The men aroused suspicion because they were "talking loudly to each other in a foreign language" and one of them "got up from his seat while the seat belt warning sign was still lit." The same man was "watching what appeared to be footage of a suicide bombing"; it turned out to be a scene from the 2007 movie The Kingdom (apt tag line: "Trust No One"). I will pass over the questionable assumption that nonterrorists rarely disobey the seat belt sign to ask why a terrorist would watch "footage of a suicide bombing" while carrying one out. To brush up on the finer points one last time?

I'm curious what readers think about this incident, which is emblematic of the better-safe-than-sorry approach we are bound to see in the wake of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's abortive attempt to sabotage a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Friday. On one hand, the detained passengers, though humiliated and delayed, were ultimately allowed to continue their trip. On the other hand, the pretext for questioning them seems self-evidently moronic. Is this the "proper balance" between security and liberty?