The Usual Suspects

Eight Republican senators have written the Department of Justice to urge rejection of Delta Air Lines’ request for a unified no-fly list addressed to a specific cohort of passengers. The list is designed to add further deterrence against passengers who refuse to comply with government and airline policy regarding masks and who engage in violent aggressions against flight crews and other passengers. In some reported cases, these individuals have tried to open aircraft doors in flight, jeopardizing the lives of the passengers and crew as well as potentially people on the ground. They have also physically attacked air crew members.

According to Apple News,, the story was reported in the Washington Post but seems to have been taken down. It was, however, also reported in The Hill. So, as insane as this is, I am not making it up.

The authors of this masterpiece of obfuscation are:

Kevin Cramer – North Dakota

Ted Cruz – Texas

John Hoeven – North Dakota

James Lankford – Oklahoma

Mike Lee – Utah

Cynthia M. Lummis – Wyoming

Marco Rubio – Florida

Rick Scott – Florida

Why do I say it’s obfuscation?

  1. The senators admit that airlines are “free to deny service to any individual over past transgressions on their flights;”

Thus, the issue is not about the list; it’s about allowing the airlines to cooperate against violence without government sanction for such cooperation; the senators want less effective management of the issue rather than more effective management. Why are Republican senators siding with people who engage in violence in the air, jeopardizing the crews, passengers, and people on the ground?

  1. The senators’ main concern is not with the safety and convenience of most air travelers but with the opprobrium that will attach to the violators who, they say, are anti-maskers;

The letter claims the government-approved list “would seemingly equate them to terrorists who seek to actively take the lives of Americans and perpetrate attacks on the homeland. Indeed, it would. Because there is no functional difference between a “terrorist” and someone who attacks the crew because he objects to mask policies. It’s not about motive. It’s about threat. What will these upstanding senators have to say if one of their anti-masker constituents succeeds in bringing down an aircraft? Or when one of them kills a flight attendant or another passenger? Here’s what  they will say: “we strongly condemn any violence towards airline workers,” the equivalent of “thoughts and prayers” when the damage has been done.

  1. The senators’ motivation is driven in large part by their continued politization of the mask mandate the efficacy of which they claim is subject to “significant uncertainty,” citing only a Congressional hearing comment by the CEO of Southwest Airlines.

It’s true that Gary Kelly testified that masks “don’t add much” to the COVID-protection armory, an observation rejected by at least one other airline executive at the same hearing. But then Kelly contracted COVID. And then Kelly took the opposite position from his Congressional testimony. As reported by Bloomberg News in late January, Kelly said: “Adding the mask is an added layer of safety, and given the fact that we’re right in the midst of this omicron surge, now’s not really the time to revisit that question, in our opinion,” ….There will come a time when the mask won’t be necessary, and I think we’ll all look forward to that, but now is not the right time.” [emphasis mine]

Did these Republican senators deliberately mislead the Department of Justice?

  1. The senators have apparently decided that people engaged in violent acts against flight crews and passengers are “not terrorists.” They’re … something else. Why? Because they said so. In fact, they don’t even approve of the anti-terrorist TSA no-fly list, citing “lack of transparency and its due process concerns.”

It’s true that there have been issues about “transparency and due process” regarding the no-fly lists. The fact that they could have been done better, despite the hysteria-driven fear of another attack on the homeland, is no reason to reject a cooperation arrangement that prevents violent passengers from simply choosing another airline next time.

  1. The senators express greater concern for the “constitutional right to engage in interstate transportation” than they do for the protection of the vast majority of passengers who comply with the law and respect the role of air crews in applying that law.

The senators produce no authority to support the point that there is a constitutional right to air travel despite the engagement in violent acts of resistance to government and airline policy. I don’t believe such authority exists. This is just another case of Republicans claiming that “my rights are superior to your rights.”

  1. Next, the senators pull out the traditional “slippery slope” argument, suggesting that there is a real risk such a list would lead to “future unrelated uses and potential expansions of the list based on political pressures.”

Thus, the Republican senators want to put you at risk today to prevent some possible future use of the list for political purposes. Of course, they don’t address how, or why, such misuse could occur in an industry as hungry for, and competitive in seeking, business as the airlines. This is the “be afraid” of your government routine that Republicans often turn to when all else fails. It violates the well-known principle that you don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

  1. Finally, the last desperate straw: the senators want this issue turned over to Congress, where in the age of Republican obstruction, most good ideas go to die.

The senators know that no Republican senator would likely support legislation to create the list in question and that in any case it would take many months, but more likely years, for Congress to act. Meanwhile, every air passenger in the country will be exposed to greater risk because a small minority of people believe they have the right to attack flight crews and other passengers to protect “rights” they don’t have.

Is there a possibility that a no-fly list of the kind proposed by Delta could someday be abused? Maybe, but there is also at least an equal chance that as long as anti-maskers are willing to engage in violence aboard aircraft, a serious disaster may occur. Given the risks and the awful consequences, compared to the potential for misuse, the rational approach is the best one. Enable the industry to jointly respond by banning miscreants who engage in violence. Any violation of someone’s rights down the road can be addressed and no one dies. That’s the choice.

See also,

2 thoughts on “The Usual Suspects

  1. Rich Little

    These people have no status to say anything about matters of substance. They are hacks in the purest sense of the word, lacking morals, scruples and any sense of decency. They should be ignored because of their total irrelevance to any meaningful policy debate.



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