TSA accused of racial profiling at Boston airport

15 August 2012

The Transportation Security Administration(TSA) has been accused of widespread racial profiling in its new initiative to flag potential terrorist threats at Logan International Airport in Boston; reports say that more than thirty federal officers involved in the Behavior Detection Program said the operation targets Black and Hispanic people as well as people of Middle Eastern descent

 The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been accused of widespread racial profiling in its new initiative to flag potential terrorist threats at Logan International Airport in Boston.

According to a report by the New York Times, more than thirty federal officers involved in the Behavior Detection Program said the operation targets Black and Hispanic people as well as people of Middle Eastern descent.

The claims come at a bad time for the air security chiefs, who have been praising the initiative as a model for transportation hubs across the United States. Also,the Guardian reports that  Obama administrationhas criticized the use of racial profiling by law enforcement authorities in Arizona and other states. The airport travel industry more generally has had a bad summer so far, especially with the news that three planes came within 1000 feet of each other in the air two weeks ago.

Under the behavior detection initiative, specially trained “assessors” monitor security lines and look people observed to be displaying specific signs such as sweating, avoiding eye contact, nervousness,and fidgeting. The program was brought in to allow officers to stop, search,and question passengers deemed to be exhibiting such behavior.

Passengers who are deemed suspicious are taken away for additional questioning, but the system has led to racial profiling as thirty-two officers have submitted written complaints to the TSA over the targeting of minorities by colleagues.

According to the New York Times report, some of the stop-and-searches were a result of pressure from managers who hoped that it would lead to the discovery of drugs, outstanding warrants,and fraudulent immigration documents.

As a result,assessors have been looking for people who fit certain profiles, such as Hispanics traveling to Miami and Black people wearing backwards hats, or a lot of jewelry.

One passenger,Kenneth Boatner, a black psychologist and educational consultant, was detained for nearly half an hour while attempting to travel to Atlanta on business last month. Boatner had his belongings examined, including his patients clinical notes.

Boatner told the Times in an interview that he felt humiliated and that the officers never explained to him why he was being detained, but he suspected that his race and the clothing he was wearing had a lot to do with it. At the time Boatner was wearing sweat pants, a white T-shirt,and basketball shoes.

“I had never been subjected to anything like that,” Boatner told the Times

One reason that the government as well as other organizations can make these claims is that there are currently no statistics on how often people at Logan are stopped, what race those people are, and how often the people who are stopped have a criminal history or warrants. Records providing these statistics could help the TSA fight claims of racial profiling.

The TSA said in a statement that the program at Logan “In no way encourages or tolerates profiling” and that passengers are not allowed to be pulled aside based on nationality, race, ethnicity or religion.

“If any of these claims prove accurate, we will take immediate and decisive action to ensure there are consequences to such activity.” the agency added.

Source: http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com

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One Response to “TSA accused of racial profiling at Boston airport”

  1. Happily, sanity preaeilvd, and the off its silly new rules, that would not have provided any more security, not have prevented the attempted downing of the plane.@Peter Combat trained amateurs is not precisely what I have in mind. Something more akin to National Guard folks. Trained as needed several weeks per year, and at least one weekend a month. I don’t know what happened yesterday. I do have a good sense of what happened on the flight into Detroit on Christmas.Someone I work with professionally, a very close personal friend, was on that flight.Two schmucks arguing over a movie is not a cause to use force. A (insert expletive here) terrorist actively working to bring down an aircraft is a cause to use force.What saved that plane was one passenger using force. I can’t believe that anyone would be against this. Do I want combat-trained frequent fliers handling this? Until the TSA gets a clue, tears down their security theatre, and starts paying for air marshals on every flight yeah I want people on the flight who are highly motivated not to allow some idiot to bring it crashing down. The fellow who saved all these lives was not combat trained as far as I know. He was simply an observant individual who reacted as everyone should have.The question is, what would you do if faced in a similar situation? Would you (not you Peter specifically, but people in general) resort to the application of force to protect yourself? If the answer is no, then ask yourself if you would also hinder the application of force which may bring benefit to you by protecting you as well as others. Some folks are put off by any application of any force in any situation. I am not one of those. A terrorist risks their life in order to take one or more lives (not their own, or not just their own). The application of lethal force to prevent them from achieving any part of their aims is IMO a valid response to their threat, and in fact provides a significant deterrent. If the soft targets are not soft More to the point, I’ll answer your quote with a paraphrase of Heinlein. He pointed out that those who insist that violence achieves no aims better ask the residents of Carthage whether or not their view has any validity. It is possible to do what I indicate, with accountability, training people to recognize, assess, and manage a situation. If a situation calls for the application of force, non-lethal or lethal, in order to protect human lives, yes, these folks should be able to act. We train our National Guard for missions like this, we can train frequent travelers for stuff like this. In the past (though possibly not today) most pilots are ex-air force/navy/marine fliers. It seems that we can have a simple command and control structure in flight, under the command of the pilot.Should we also not train amateurs in CPR, as they are not doctors, but gifted bystanders? Failure to perform CPR or the Heimlich maneuver correctly could lead to death. I’d argue the opposite, that even doing something partially wrong is often better than no action what-so-ever. This is a metaphor for the TSA’s current security.But, as noted, such ideas wouldn’t be looked at, in part, because they are non-theatrical.

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