A Muslim Secret Service agent was removed from a plane; Mayor Rudolph Giuliani prepares to leave office; Police in Times Square will use gadgets to guard against nuclear terrorism on New Year's Eve, and an ex-senator will oversee the Red Cross fund.
Secret Service Agent Barred From Flight
Dec. 27 — A Muslim Secret Service agent assigned to President Bush was denied passage on an American Airlines flight earlier this week, airline and Secret Service officials said.
The agent, who was armed, was due to fly Tuesday — Christmas Day — from Baltimore to Texas, where the president is on vacation.
A spokesman for the airline says the pilot asked for the agent, who has not been identified, to be removed from his plane because of inconsistencies in the paperwork the agent filed, as required of all federal officers traveling armed.
A Washington-based advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, known as CAIR, says the agent was denied his flight because of racial and religious profiling.
In a letter sent to American Airlines today, the group wrote: "We are concerned that American Airlines would arbitrarily deny boarding to a Muslim passenger, particularly someone who has one of our nation's highest security clearances, merely because of his religion or ethnicity.
"The passengers on Flight 363 would actually have been more secure had [the agent] been allowed to board."
CAIR says the agent's identification was checked repeatedly, and he offered to have the Secret Service confirm his identity.
The agent was allowed to fly the next day.
"This incident had absolutely nothing to do with the agent's ethnicity," airline spokesman Todd Burke told Reuters. "It's about American Airlines confirming that an armed individual is indeed who they say they are.
"We apologize for any inconvenience that [the agent] may have experienced. But in this time of tightened security we feel that absolutely nobody is above approved security procedures."
The Secret Service confirmed the incident, and said it was investigating the details.
CAIR is demanding a further apology.
New York’s Mayor Moves On
N E W Y O R K, Dec. 27 — Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said goodbye today to the city where he battled crime, his critics and the Sept. 11 crisis across eight years in City Hall. "Although I have to leave you as mayor soon, I resume the much more honorable title of citizen of New York, and citizen of the United States," Giuliani said, standing on an altar one block east of ground zero. Giuliani, 57, leaves on the highest note of his administration: his acclaimed handling of the city following the terrorist attacks that collapsed the World Trade Center and killed more than 2,900 people. The mayor explained that when he took office, he was determined to take a different approach than his predecessors — even though he knew it would cause "hostility and anger" among his critics. "When I became mayor of New York City in 1993, it seemed to me that I had to do something different than other mayors," Giuliani said. "It seemed I had to totally change the direction and course of New York City." During his time in office, Giuliani helped drastically slash the city's crime rates, renovated Times Square and made New York a tourist attraction once again. He also was named Time magazine's "person of the year" for 2001. But his relationship with the city's minority communities was strained, particularly after the fatal police shooting of one black man, Amadou Diallo, and a brutal attack by police on another, Abner Louima. Giuliani, comfortable in front of a friendly crowd, took a handheld microphone and walked out from behind the podium as he spoke. He joked with the audience and Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik in between covering his career in office. He spoke at St. Paul's Chapel in lower Manhattan, a pre-Revolutionary War Episcopal church one block east of the ruins of the trade center. The mayor described the church as "hallowed ground," noting that George Washington prayed there following his inauguration in 1789. He also pointed out that the church emerged unscathed from the Sept. 11 attacks, without even a single window broken. Giuliani, a Republican, was barred by term limits law from seeking a third consecutive term. His last day in City Hall will be Dec. 31, with the man he endorsed — billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg — taking over on New Year's Day. Giuliani was expected to swear Bloomberg in at a brief ceremony around midnight in Times Square.
—The Associated Press
Special Precautions to Ring in the New Year
N E W Y O R K, Dec. 27 — Law enforcement agents will be patrolling Times Square on New Year's Eve armed with radiation detectors in an effort to protect revelers from possible nuclear terrorism, according to a report in today's New York Post. The device, which is slightly larger than a pack of cigarettes, is capable of alerting the user to radioactivity nearby, the newspaper said. More than one million people are expected to watch the ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve. Inspector Christopher Rising, an NYPD police spokesman, declined to say how many members of the force would be provided with the "personal radiation detectors," which are on loan from the U.S. Customs Service. "Our responsibility is to keep everyone safe. New York City post-Sept. 11, as well as the rest of the country, posts new challenges, and the NYPD is continuing to do everything it can to keep New York City the safest large city in America," Rising said. The black gadget, which weighs 6 ounces and is carried in a belt holster, costs $1,400, the Post reported. If it detects radiation, the device vibrates, sounds a tone and displays flashing yellow lights. Rising said the plan to use the device in Times Square is strictly "precautionary" and not based on a specific threat. "Customs has been using them for a while to test shipments. They're not designed to give a pinpoint reading — they're designed to tell you where you're safe to be," he explained.
—The Associated Press
Former Senator to Oversee Red Cross Fund
N E W Y O R K, Dec. 27 — Former Sen. George Mitchell is going to oversee the American Red Cross fund that was set up to help victims of the terrorist attacks.
The fund has collected $667 million.
By the end of the year, the charity expects to distribute nearly half of the money. Mitchell will help develop and carry out a plan to give out the rest of it.
The Red Cross ran into criticism when it said part of the Liberty Fund would be used for projects not directly connected to the attacks.
Last month, the charity reversed itself — and said all of the money would go to people harmed by the terrorism.
—The Associated Press
Widow Gets Husband's Ring From Wreckage
P O R T O L A V A L L E Y, Calif., Dec. 26 — After her husband died on the last of the doomed Sept. 11 flights, Dorothy Garcia told FBI agents the only thing she wanted was his wedding ring recovered from the wreckage.
They told her they weren't likely to find it at the Pennsylvania crash site of United Airlines Flight 93. But last week, two agents brought her his wallet and the ring, which she knew by its inscription: "All my love, 8-2-69."
"It was a miracle," she said.
Andrew Garcia, 62, was returning from a business trip when the plane was hijacked en route from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco. Several passengers said in phone calls before the crash that they planned to fight back against the hijackers.
"We're trying to just remember that my husband as well as every single passenger on that flight was a hero, and thanking them for their patriotism," Dorothy Garcia said.
The couple met in the 1960s when they both worked for United Airlines, and they ran a start-up company at the time of Andrew Garcia's death.
Dorothy Garcia knew the first Christmas without him would be difficult. Little things troubled her, like deciding who would sit at the head of the dinner table where he once sat.
She now wears her husband's wedding ring on her middle finger on her right hand. It seems right, she said.
"Because he was the center of my life."
—The Associated Press