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Dr Settles Civil Rights Suit Against Feds

August 1, 2003

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The Transportation Security Administration has agreed to change procedures and pay $50,000 as part of a settlement of a lawsuit alleging that armed air marshals detained a physician of Indian descent solely because of his dark skin.

Dr. Bob Rajcoomar, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves, filed a civil rights lawsuit against the government in April after he was detained four hours by air marshals following an Aug. 31 flight from Atlanta to Philadelphia. He was eventually released and no charges were filed. He said one of the agents explained by saying, ``We didn’t like the way you looked.″

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John P. Fullam said he was satisfied that the TSA is complying with the terms of a settlement agreement that called for the agency to change its ``policies and training procedures regarding the allegations in the complaint.″

The agency also agreed to pay Rajcoomar $50,000 in damages and have TSA’s administrator, retired Coast Guard Adm. James Loy, issue a written apology to Rajcoomar and his wife.

``I hope that other people won’t have to go through this horror,″ Rajcoomar said at a news conference. ``I’m a very staunch American. I eat hamburgers and hot dogs. This was a real shock to me.″

``This is the first time ... that any branch of Homeland Security has had to satisfy a federal judge that it was complying with the Constitution,″ said Stefan Presser, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Philadelphia and one of Rajcoomar’s lawyers.

The agency’s report to the judge on its revised policies and procedures is sealed. TSA spokesman Mark Hatfield said he could not comment.

The ACLU said the government’s official explanation for Rajcoomar’s treatment was that he ``had been observing (the actions of the air marshals) too closely.″ But the ACLU called his arrest a clear example of racial profiling.

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