Increased security checks at U.S. airports slammed as racial profiling

16:48, January 23, 2010      

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The increased security checks at U.S. airports have been criticized as racial and religious profiling, and some hold that this won't end terrorism.

As of Jan. 4, 2010, anyone flying into the United States, traveling from or through Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen, Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria, will be required to go through increased security checks.

Increased screening of all passengers regardless of age, gender or immigration status can include full-body pat-downs, which means physical searches by officers, full body electronic scans and additional searches of carry-on baggage.

South Asian Network, a grassroots, community-based organization dedicated to advancing the health, empowerment and solidarity of persons of South Asian origin, and partner organizations have sent letters to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA), asking to remove these changes because they would lead to more racial and religious profiling as well as targeting based on national origin.

They also asked supporters to tell DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano that "the increased security screenings required by the new TSA policies are blatant discrimination based on racial and religious profiling, and I would like these to be discontinued immediately."

Aziz Huq, who teaches at the University of Chicago law school, asserted in his article on the website of ColorLines, a nationwide magazine on race and politics, that racial profiling would not end terrorism.

Huq wrote that this year's racial profiling model is the most recent in a long line of immigration measures grounded in dubious intelligence all too often based on ethnic and racial stereotypes.

The new TSA rules, Huq said, must be seen against the backdrop of an air travel security system that is already deeply racialized.

He said in the last eight years, scholars and advocates have identified an increasing amount of evidence of the profiling's failure.

He said there is no evidence that racial or ethnic profiling decreases the net amount of terrorism. On the contrary, studies of airline security measures imposed after a wave of hijackings in the 1970s suggest that it has the opposite effect of increasing terrorism.

In one of the best of these studies, Walter Enders and Todd Sandler found in 1993 that although new mandatory screening procedures decreased the number of hijackings, they coincided with an increase in other forms of terrorism, such as kidnappings and attacks on stationary targets, Huq wrote.

Even former Bush administration officials Michael Chertoff and Mike Hayden also publicly oppose profiling.

Abdulmutallab (a Nigerian who attempted to bomb a U.S. passenger aircraft on Dec. 25) "would not have automatically fit a profile if you were standing next to him in the visa line at Dulles," Hayden, a former CIA and NSA director, said in the NBC program "Meet The Press" recently.

"One of the things al-Qaida's done is deliberately trying to recruit people who don't fit the stereotype, who are Western in background or appearance," said Chertoff, a former secretary of Homeland Security.

However, there are people who support racial profiling.

Spencer Ackerman wrote on WashingtonIndependent.com that he believes in racial and ethnic profiling.

"If you're looking at people getting on an airplane and you have X amount of resources to get into it, you get at the targets, and not my wife ... It's something that should be looked into," Ackerman wrote.

"The statement that's made, it's probably 90 percent true with some exceptions ... But when you hear that not all Middle Easterners or Muslims between the age of 20 and 35 are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims or Middle Easterners between the age of 20 and 35, that's by and large true," he wrote.

Source: Xinhua
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