National Security

Airport Screening Policy Altered

Security officials will refrain from using nationality to stop passengers

By Charlie Carroll

How far is too far in the search for terrorists? Charlie Carroll examines the fine line between racial profiling and ‘geographic analysis.’ Let us know what you think in the comment field below.

Photo by Erin Wickersham

The Transportation Security Administration has repealed emergency security procedures put into place after the Christmas day 2009 failed terrorist attempt to blow up an airliner. Earlier this month, the TSA announced the changes as well as the latest round of security protocols, which rely heavily on specific threat criteria and updated intelligence reports.

Civil rights advocates had complained that the former TSA policy of singling out travelers coming from a list of 14 “countries of concern” was tantamount to racial profiling.

‘Geographic Analysis’ vs. ‘Racial Profiling’

In an interview conducted before the administration announced the changes, Nawar Shora, former legal director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, argued that the measures were disproportionately targeted towards those of Arab or Muslim backgrounds. He now serves as a senior adviser in the office of civil rights and liberties at the TSA.

“As great as our society is, as great as our country is, our history has shown that we always have a group to fear,” he said.  “In a post-9/11 world, that now includes not just Arabs, but Muslim, Seikhs and a number of others groups.”

But Heather MacDonald, a John M. Olin fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and contributing editor to City Journal, insisted that it is an important law enforcement response to realistically focus on known areas of concentrated threat.

According to MacDonald, the former policy is better described as a “geographic analysis” than “racial profiling.”

“It’s not as if people are being thrown into jail without due process of law,” said MacDonald, “but there is an additional set of screenings at an airport.  It is not directed at any specific traveler; it is a generalization based on a statistical truth, which is that terrorists come from particular parts of the world in much higher rates.”

“As great as our society is, as great as our country is, our history has shown that we always have a group to fear.” – Nawar Shora,former legal director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

The Curious Case of Jihad Jane

The recent case of “Jihad Jane,” an American woman charged with terrorism-related crimes, shows how difficult terrorist recognition can be for officials. Colleen LaRose, aka Jihad Jane, is a blonde, blue-eyed white woman who actively recruited and planned for an attack against a Swedish cartoonist that drew depictions of the prophet Mohammed.

“Cases such as that of Jihad Jane show us that the face of terrorism is not what we think it is,” said Shora.  “They are not a religion or an ethnicity, but an ideology.  This ideology is separate from the true face of Islam and true Arab culture.  It is a violent movement.”

For more information, check out: TSA Guidance for Passengers on International Flights


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