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Catch-22 Revisted

US military, intelligence services: “We need more people to learn Arabic.” TSA: “If you study Arabic, you’re probably a terrorist.”

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Dave Davies: Student air passenger handcuffed to echoes of 9/11 fears

IGHT YEARS after 9/11, we’re used to changes in our routines. We show ID to get into office buildings, and take off our shoes at airports.

But should a college student flying back to school be handcuffed and held for five hours because he has Arabic flash cards in his backpack?

That’s the way Nick George, a senior at Pomona College, in California, sees what happened to him at the Philadelphia airport two Saturdays ago.

George, of Wyncote, Montgomery County, was about to catch a Southwest flight back to school when stereo speakers in his backpack caught the eye of screeners at the metal detector.

When they looked though his bag, George said, they found his Arabic/English flash cards, and escorted him to a side screening area.

He figures it didn’t help that his passport had stamps from Jordan, where he’d studied a semester, and Egypt and Sudan, where he’d gone backpacking.

And among his 200 flash cards were words like “terrorist” and “explosion.” He was learning to translate the Arabic-language news network Al Jazeera.

“I understand I might warrant a second look,” George told me. “They should have taken me aside, seen I had a legitimate explanation and a student ID and that I was carrying nothing illegal, and waved me on.”

They didn’t.

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