Are Flashcards a Reason to Arrest Someone?

flash cardFlashcards are a great way to learn a new language. They allow you to switch back and forth between your native language and the language you are trying to learn. You can separate the words you do know from those you are still learning. You can take them anywhere and study with them whenever you have some down time.

Flashcards are just a really wonderful thing. Unless you are studying Arabic and flying on an airplane, that is.

Nicholas George is a senior at Pomona College in California. He is studying physics and Arabic. According to The Los Angeles Times, George was flying back to school after spending time at home in Philadelphia last August. In his pocket, he had some Arabic-English flashcards so he could study them on the plane.

When George went through the security checkpoint, he was arrested and spent four hours in detention because he had flashcards that translated “bomb” and “terrorism.”

Perhaps George should have taken a little more caution when he was packing his carry-on bag though. In addition to the apparent threatening flashcards, he had a book that was critical of American foreign policy, and his passport had stamps from several Middle Eastern countries. The combination of these items gave the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) what they thought was reason to arrest and question George.

Now George is suing the TSA, the Philadelphia police, and the FBI. He claims that his right to free speech and his right to protection from unreasonable search and seizure were violated.

“I feel the TSA acts like it has a blank check as long as what it does is in the name of fighting terrorism,” George said. “Of course, the TSA’s job is to keep us safe, but they have to follow the Constitution and respect rights. [If flashcards can trigger this type of reaction] then we’ve got a real First Amendment issue here. I have a right to study Arabic.”

I agree that George has a right to study whatever language he wants to study. But, to an extent, I think he should have left the flashcards that pose a possible threat at home or packed his book in his checked luggage.

What do you think? Who’s in the wrong here

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