Saturday, Nov. 13, 2004 12:10 p.m. EST

ACLU: Hijack Prevention Measures Are Unconstitutional

Not everyone is happy that tighter airport security has managed to prevent a rerun of the 9/11 attacks.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing Boston's Logan Airport, the very facility used by Osama bin Laden's suicide hijackers, claiming that its security measures led to the illegal detainment of one of its officials.

In a press release issued last week, the left-wing group says that Logan's behavior pattern recognition program "effectively condones and encourages" racial and ethnic profiling and is therefore unconstitutional.

The lawsuit claims that King Downing, the ACLU's national coordinator for racial profiling, alleges that he was harassed by state police last year while he was on his way to attend a meeting on racial profiling.

Downing says he was making a telephone call when airport officials stopped him and "demanded that he produce some identification, according to an ACLU press release.

Downing declined to give his information and was arrested on the spot. He was released a short time later, however, after producing identification along with his travel documents. No charges were filed.

"This program is another unfortunate example of the extent to which we are being asked to surrender basic freedoms in the name of security," said John Reinstein, the Massachusetts Legal Director of the ACLU. "This allows the police to stop anyone, any time, for any reason."

The Massachusetts Port Authority strongly denies the racial profiling charge, arguing that its program protects civil rights and that there are no racial factors in behavior pattern recognition.

Joseph Taranto contributed to this report.