Suspicious in Seattle? Times Concerned with "Alleged Racial Profiling" on Ferry
On Monday the Seattle branch of the FBI released photos takenon a Puget Soundferry of two men who passengers and crew saw acting suspiciously. The FBI asked for help in identifying the men, to local resistance from Muslim interest groups, a liberal local newspaper, and the Times.
"Earlier this summer a concerned crew member of a Washington State ferry boat snapped pictures of two men who had raised suspicions on several ferry rides by asking questions about structural details and entering areas of the boats that are off limits.
"Now, after the Federal Bureau of Investigation released two photographs of the men to the public with the goal of identifying them, a debate has erupted over alleged racial profiling, one ferry was shut down briefly this week and the men, while suddenly familiar faces, remain unidentified."
"News of the men's behavior has been reported in local newspapers and on television stations, but not all of them published the photographs or reported the story immediately. The managing editor of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, David McCumber, wrote on the paper's Web site that without more information from law enforcement, the two men 'may as easily be tourists from Texas as terrorists from the Mideast.'
"'Based on what we have,' Mr. McCumber wrote, 'it seemed newsworthy that the F.B.I. was trying to find these guys, but it did not seem appropriate to run their photographs.'
"Muslim groups have said the release of the photographs amounted to profiling because the men could be perceived as Middle Eastern. Rita Zawaideh, the chairwoman of the Arab American Community Coalition, said her group had received reports that other men who could be perceived as Middle Eastern or from South Asia have been stopped this month and questioned for hours. The F.B.I. would not confirm specific accounts of questioning but said investigators routinely stopped ferry riders to question them.
"On Thursday, Ms. Zawaideh and officials from several Muslim groups met with officials from the F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies to express their concerns. Ms. Zawaideh said that her group was among several that met monthly with law enforcement officials to nurture good relations and that she was disappointed that the F.B.I. had not first consulted with them before releasing the photographs."
Naturally, the Times didn't reprint the photos of the two men, either.