Airport security firm was forced to retain Muslim screeners in 2001 despite security risks and terror country origins
August 11, 2006
By Paul Sperry
WASHINGTON – A leading airport-security firm under fire for hiring foreigners was pressured by the federal government two-and-a-half years ago to rehire Arab non-citizens.
Argenbright Security Inc., which provides security at both Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports, agreed in early 1999 to rehire seven Muslim women after they filed a religion-bias complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The Justice Department, in the wake of the Sept. 11 hijackings, is investigating the same company for failing to properly screen its guards.
Argenbright operates the screening posts under contract with United Airlines at Dulles and Newark International Airport in New Jersey, where Islamic terrorists hijacked two of the four jumbo jets.
Airport security experts say the EEOC settlement – which also mandates Muslim-sensitivity training for all Argenbright employees – goes a long way toward explaining why 87 percent of the checkpoint screeners at Dulles are not U.S. citizens. All seven Muslim complainants worked as Dulles screeners at the time.
"If I were Argenbright and being investigated, I'd tell them, 'You want to sue us? Go talk to the damn EEOC. They're the ones who forced these people on us,'" said Steve Elson, a former Federal Aviation Administration airport-security inspector.
Atlanta-based Argenbright, owned by London-based Securicor PLC, declined comment. Argenbright runs passenger and luggage checkpoints at most of the nation's major airports.
Four of the seven Muslim workers are from Sudan, a country on the State Department's terrorist blacklist. One is from Egypt, and another is from Afghanistan.
The Muslims contended they were fired by Argenbright for refusing to take off their head scarves while screening passengers. They said covering their heads is required by the Koran.
Apparently, United had received complaints from passengers nervous about Middle Easterners still running security after the year-earlier U.S. embassy bombings in Africa.
The EEOC complaint was drafted by a lawyer for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based interest group that has spoken out in support of terrorist groups and has called for a halt to U.S. bombing in Afghanistan.
In 1998, after Osama bin Laden was fingered for blowing up the U.S. embassies, CAIR demanded that a Los Angeles billboard with bin Laden's picture and the caption, "Enemy No. 1," be removed.
On Sept. 17, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad stood next to President Bush at the Islamic Center of Washington, where Bush pleaded for Americans to "respect" Muslims and Islam's teachings of "peace." Awad also was seated near the first lady at Bush's Sept. 20 speech to Congress.
Rep. David E. Bonior, D-Mich., joined CAIR, which publishes booklets called "An Employer's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices," in denouncing the firing of the seven Arab non-citizen screeners.
"This incident raises a larger issue: that of widespread and systematic discrimination against Muslims and Arab-Americans in airports all across the country," said Bonior in a March 1999 House floor speech.
Bonior, whose Detroit-area district has a large Muslim population, has lobbied FAA administrator Jane Garvey, a Clinton appointee, to end profiling of Muslims and Arabs at U.S. airports.
"I'm angry. This is my religion," said Iklas Musa, one of the EEOC complainants at the time of the March 1999 filing.
In April, Argenbright agreed to give the women back pay and $2,500 in compensation, as well as a written apology. In addition, the company implemented a Muslim-sensitivity program at all its U.S. locations.
Some of the Muslim women, like Rueaia F. Mohammed, didn't think the settlement went far enough and wanted to make Argenbright apologize on TV.
Ex-FAA inspector Elson says airport-security contractors can't win. On one hand, the government slams them for hiring foreigners. But if they don't hire them, or fire them, the government nails them for discrimination.
"The only standard government enforces is making every minority happy and comfortable and not offending anybody," Elson told WorldNetDaily.
"But the Constitution doesn't say you can't offend anybody, and it doesn't say we can't discriminate against people if they're a threat to our security," he added. "When it comes to our survival, I really don't give a damn about Muslim sensitivities."