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May 10, 2004

Jose Melendez-Perez

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I keep a list of "essential" articles on file a la SDB's famous on-line collection. This address by former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman is the latest addition (via the Belmont Club). His remarks about the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon are truly essential reading. So is the following observation.

Actions have consequences, and people must be held accountable. Customs officer Jose Melendez-Perez stopped the 20th terrorist, who was supposed to be on Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania. Probably because of the shorthanded muscle on that team, the passengers were able to overcome the terrorists. Melendez-Perez did this at great personal risk, because his colleagues and his supervisors told him, "You can't do this. This guy is an Arab ethnic. You're racially profiling. You're going to get in real trouble, because it's against Department of Transportation policy to racially profile." He said, "I don't care. This guy's a bad guy. I can see it in his eyes." As he sent this guy back out of the United States, the guy turned around to him and said, "I'll be back." You know, he is back. He's in Guantanamo. We captured him in Afghanistan. Do you think Melendez-Perez got a promotion? Do you think he got any recognition? Do you think he is doing any better than the 19 of his time-serving, unaccountable colleagues? Don't think any bit of it. We have no accountability, but we're going to restore it.

I am pleased to report February 9, 2004 was declared Jose Melendez-Perez Day in Orlando, Florida.

And then... The miracle of "the internet" brings us Officer Melendez-Perez' testimony to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The following point is critical. It is a perverse, dehumanizing logic that suggests a person must be innocent because of their nationality.

In regard to the incident on August 4, 2001 which I am about to talk about, I note that another inspector on duty that day made a comment that I was going to get into trouble for refusing a Saudi national. I replied that I have to do my job, and I cannot do my work with dignity if I base my recommendations on refusals/admissions on someone’s nationality.

And this last remark is unbelievable. Or all too believable.

On September 11, 2001 while attending a meeting with the Warden at the Central Florida Processing Center (Department of Corrections) concerning the use of their range, a corrections officer came in and advised the Warden of the incident that had just occurred in New York City. As I watched the television, I could not help but think of the two cases I had processed in August concerning Saudi Nationals. I immediately contacted the Orlando Airport (I do not remember which officer I spoke with) but I asked them to look up the cases and contact the FBI agent assigned to the airport.

To the best of my knowledge, immigration officers made copies of this August 4, 2001 incident and provided that paperwork to the FBI. The FBI has never interviewed me. I do not recall ever speaking with GITMO officials. INS headquarters contacted me once. I have had no other contact with intelligence or law enforcement officials. Outside of legacy INS, the only government contact I have had about this incident came from the September 11 Commission this past fall, from your border team investigating the incident.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at May 10, 2004 10:28 AM

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Jose Melendez-Perez:

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» Bring Da Noise, Bring Da Hate from Ilyka Damen
So I take it we have a few--perhaps more than a few--people in this country who believe acts of terror committed against American civilians are a just punishment for the sins of American foreign policy. And why not?--It is, after... [Read More]

Tracked on May 11, 2004 09:53 PM

» Bring Da Noise, Bring Da Hate from Ilyka Damen
So I take it we have a few--perhaps more than a few--people in this country who believe acts of terror committed against American civilians are a just punishment for the sins of American foreign policy. And why not?--It is, after... [Read More]

Tracked on May 12, 2004 04:05 AM

Comments

You know what this tells me?

It tells me that the U.S. is no safer than we were on September 10, 2001.

Thank you for this story. Really. That guy is a frickin' hero.

Posted by: Emma at May 13, 2004 06:03 PM

Hi there Jose Melendez-Perez,
Your an amazing individal :)
TY :)

Posted by: Michael at July 23, 2004 12:33 AM

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