JOHN DOE JOE
Vigilant American "John Does" may soon be safe from lawsuits - and safer from terrorists - thanks to Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-I, Conn.) and a key provision in the security bill that cleared Congress on Friday.
It borders on the obvious: Citizens who report suspicious activity in good faith to the authorities shouldn't have to fear being sued by whoever they finger, even - indeed, especially - if they were mistaken.
Ordinary Americans have foiled terrorist plots through their good sense and vigilance - most notably the recent bid to attack Fort Dix - and national security can't afford for anything to discourage them from performing this most basic civic duty.
So when six suspiciously acting Muslim imams filed a lawsuit against the passengers whose tips to authorities had them removed from a flight last November, Congress took up the matter.
Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) co-sponsored an amendment to a transportation-security bill (soon merged with a measure to implement recommendations of the 9/11 Commission) that would protect those passengers - and others like them - from legal liability.
The measure passed the House by a vote of 304 to 121. A similar amendment (but to a different bill) drew nearly 60 votes in the Senate.
But that almost wasn't enough.
Unwilling - and unable - to oppose the measure in broad daylight, the Democratic leadership did everything it could to kill it behind closed doors - in the conference committee charged with reconciling the House and Senate versions of the bill.
It was a dangerous pander to a far-left base instinctively more concerned about the possibility of "racial profiling" than with the security of the American people. And it almost worked - until Lieberman intervened.
"Joe Lieberman deserves enormous credit," King said after the amendment went through. "He was unyielding."
Happily, he was in a position where he didn't have to yield.
As chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Lieberman had substantial sway over what went in the final bill - and he wanted John Doe protections.
In retrospect, Lieberman had a strong hand. Solid majorities in both chambers had already declared for the measure, and it's no secret that the Democratic leadership was desperate to pass a terror-security bill.
Still, he had to fend off multiple "compromises" that would have quietly watered down the liability protection.
One would have limited it to only those who report potential terrorist-related activity - as if terrorists will always be distinguishable from ordinary criminals.
Another would have removed the retroactive protection for the passengers who reported the six imams.
But Lieberman stood firm where only he could, insisting on the fullest measure of protection. It was a rare act of political courage, thanks to which the American people may now be significantly safer.
Way to go, Joe.