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A Story of Vigilance
 
June 05 | 2007
 

You remember the young electronics store clerk whose tip led the FBI to the six men plotting to murder American soldiers at Fort Dix. While copying a video tape onto DVD, he saw images of men firing guns and shouting Islamic slogans.

For a while after the story broke, he kept his head down. Now Brian Morgenstern has come forward -- and his story is eye-popping. For a full day after seeing the evidence, he debated with himself about whether he should report what he knew. He was concerned about violating the privacy of his customers and that telling the police might be looked upon as "racist."

I can understand his regard for customer privacy. Worrying that he’d be viewed as a racist, though, is troubling -- because there are people trying to use that charge to keep Americans from reporting potentially deadly behavior. This was the case with the so-called "flying imams." They provoked real concern among airline passengers – and some think purposely. Then they filed suit against the airline and the passengers who reported them -- claiming they were racists.

Most Americans take the charge of racism very seriously -- as they should. It becomes a problem, though, if false accusations are used to keep us from reporting suspicious activities. It looked for a while that legislation to protect sincere whistleblowers from lawsuits would never make it to a vote. The chair of the House Homeland Security Committee held up the legislation, saying it would promote racial and religious profiling. Fortunately, he’s changed his mind. I'm happy about that and congratulate him. I'll be happier, though, when the bill is enacted.

I was also glad to hear that Morgenstern was rewarded by his employer, Circuit City, for his part in preventing the attack on Fort Dix. And I was impressed that he told those who called him a "hero" that the real heroes are our soldiers in the field. A second man, also credited with the tip, has chosen to remain anonymous. Maybe when he's protected from expensive and frivolous lawsuits, we'll hear his story too.

 

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