The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says it doesn't have to release sensitive information for a federal case in Minnesota -- at least not yet. The case concerns six Islamic leaders who sued U.S. Airways for discrimination after being removed from a flight at the Twin Cities airport in 2006.
The Imams' lawyers say they cannot respond to U.S. Airways pending motions for summary judgment without knowing what information the TSA redacted from certain U.S. Airways documents. The TSA calls the redactions "sensitive security information" that, if released publicly, could be "detrimental to the security of transportation."
The TSA, which is not a party to the case, said if the Court is concerned that the lack of access to the documents would prejudice the Imams' case, the Court should allow U.S. Airways to file the information under seal. The Court could then view the documents privately in chambers and decide whether they are relevant to the case.
The Imams contend they were removed from the U.S. Airways flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix because of racism and religious intolerance. They were leaving the Twin Cities after attending a religious conference in November 2006 when airport security removed them from the plane, handcuffed and questioned them. They had been praying shortly before they boarded the flight at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and after they boarded, some passengers told the crew they felt uncomfortable with the clerics on board. U.S. Airways refused to allow them to fly on the airline and refunded their fare. The Imams filed suit against the airline in March of 2007.
The TSA said Congress expressly gave it authority to deteremine what qualifies as "sensitive security information" and whether to disclose it. Its determinations can be overturned by a federal appeals court. The TSA said in the alternative of the Court viewing the information privately, it could allow the Imams to challenge the TSA's rulings in a U.S. District Court of Appeals.