The AP points out that anti-terrorism provisions from the 2001 USA Patriot Act have been used to convict more than 200 people who did drunk, profane, and stupid things aboard airplanes, underscoring the latitude given to flight crews in deeming unruly passengers a threat. Some legal eagles find it unfair to use a law designed to thwart a hijacking against people whose only crime is striving for membership in the Mile High Club, but the Justice Department feels strongly that unruly behavior of any kind represents a threat to the safe operation of an aircraft.
The story relates the case of Carl Persing, who was convicted of interfering with flight attendants and crew members simply for cradling his weary head in his girlfriend's lap. The flight attendant, however, claimed a tipsy Persing was "yodeling in the valley," so to speak, and became aggressive after being asked twice to curtail the activity. He was sentenced to a year's probation.
Is it right to prosecute someone like a terrorist when they're actually just a run-of-the-mill drunken fool? Well, there's little room for error when you're up in the sky, but we'd think there would be regular laws against in-flight shenanigans. And that's an awful lot of legal authority to give to a flight crew. Once they deem you a threat, you're a threat. Could that power ever go to their heads? Here's hoping we don't get tazed for laughing a bit too loud at the movie on our next flight.