Terror profile: TSA agents key on minority passengers again
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Transportation Security Administration employees have reported what many Americans feared and expected -- that agents are engaging in widespread racial and ethnic profiling against African-Americans, Hispanics, Middle Easterners and other minorities in maintaining airport security.
A report in Sunday's New York Times said that 32 TSA officers at Boston's Logan International Airport complained to their supervisors that such profiling was taking place, after similar practices were reported last year at airports in Newark, N.J., and Hawaii.
The employees said travelers have been stopped, searched and interrogated extensively based not only on ethnicity and race, but also on their destination, dress and even jewelry. The officers believe some agents were responding to demands by managers to meet certain quotas for passengers referred to state police or federal agencies such as the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Although the TSA defended the behavior detection program, it said it will launch an investigation into the profiling claims. That's the least it can do.
Racial and ethnic profiling by government officers is completely at odds with American principles of freedom and justice. It cannot be justified even by the post-9/11 paranoia that has become institutionalized in various parts of government.
The behavior detection program also doesn't make sense in security terms. A serious terrorist with light skin wishing to get past TSA agents could in principle avoid close scrutiny through conservative dress and a polite smile.
If the reports are true, the racial targeting is disgusting and requires a rapid, decisive remedy by the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the TSA. Although the TSA has promised its own probe, Homeland Security must watch carefully that the agency doesn't just sweep the complaints under the rug and try to punish the whistleblowers.
First Published August 16, 2012 12:00 am