Senator Susan Collins is expected to speak on the Senate floor sometime this evening on legislation that she introduced with Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) that would provide legal protections to individuals who report suspicious activity that may reflect terrorist threats. The bill would provide civil immunity in American courts for citizens who, acting in good faith, report threats to our transportation systems to appropriate law-enforcement and transportation-system officials, without fear of being sued. The bill would not protect individuals who knowingly make false statements.
The legislation was offered as an amendment to the education bill that is currently under consideration in the U.S. Senate.
In a recent speech to the U.S. Senate, Senator Collins explained that the recent arrests in Fort Dix, New Jersey, which foiled a plot to attack and kill American soldiers, was the result of a tip from a vigilant citizen, coupled with effective coordination by state and federal law enforcement officials. Senator Collins said, “The recent arrests in New Jersey of six men charged with conspiring to murder American soldiers at Fort Dix underscores the need for this bill. Law-enforcement officials have noted that their investigation was triggered by an alert clerk’s report that a customer had brought in a video that showed men firing weapons and shouting in Arabic, which reminded him of the 9/11 terrorists.
“That store clerk’s action may have saved hundreds of lives, and represents a core truth of the dangerous times in which we live: Our safety depends on more than police officers, intelligence analysts, and soldiers. It also depends on the alertness and civic responsibility of ordinary American citizens – including the peaceful and tolerant people who form the vast majority of our American Muslim communities.”
Senator Collins added, “We must encourage ordinary citizens to be watchful and to report behavior that appears suspicious or threatening. “