Another TSA Miscalculation?

February 3, 2012

The Sikh Coalition has obtained previously unreleased TSA documents.  Written in 2009, these documents show that the agency can pursue several auditing options to weed out racial and religious profiling.  In addition, the authors of the document apparently miscalculated the effectiveness of Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines, recommending that TSA determine which auditing option to implement “during the interim period of time it takes to deploy advance[d] passenger screening technologies” and claiming “that advance[d] screening technologies, beyond those deployed [in 2009] will reduce or possibly eliminate perceptive profiling[.]”  As it turns out, Sikhs are still subjected to secondary pat down screenings, even after passing through AIT machines without incident, and other communities continue to report discriminatory treatment by TSA  personnel.  In this context, TSA needs to take its auditing options more seriously.

Internal TSA Documents Exposed by Sikh Coalition





Racial Profiling Doesn’t Work Says Israeli Airport Security Chief

January 14, 2010

In this National Public Radio piece, Rafi Ron, the former chief for security at Ben Gurion airport argues that racial profiling is not effective. Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv is Israel’s largest airport and has a generally excellent reputation for security.

In the piece, Ron squarely addresses the effectiveness of racial profiling:

“One of the problems with racial profiling is that there is this tendency to believe that this is the silver bullet to solve the problem. In other terms if you are a Middle Easterner or if you are a Muslim you must be bad. If you are a European and Christian, you must be good.

But back in 1972, Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv was supposed to be attacked by a Palestinian. It was never attacked by one. It was attacked by a Japanese terrorist killing 24 people and it was attacked in the mid-80s by a German terrorist with blue eyes and blonde hair answering to the name Miller.” Read the rest of this entry »

Media Coverage of Capitol Hill Briefing on Profiling

January 12, 2010

The Arab American Institute organized an excellent briefing yesterday morning on profiling post-Christmas 2009.

Here’s a news article on the briefing:

During the briefing, the Coalition came out squarely against the new TSA policy singling out nationals of 14 select countries for extra scrutiny regardless of individual criminal culpability:

“Profiling is now the policy of our country. Let’s not mince words,” said Amardeep Singh

The TSA wrongly denied that it was engaging in profiling, stating:

TSA does not profile,” the spokesman added. “As is always the case, TSA security measures are based on threat, not ethnic or religious background.”

Its policy however would indicate that it is profiling. The Coalition will continue to press the TSA on the issue of whether it is engaging in profiling or not. Stay tuned.

(Note my title in the article is incorrect).

End Racial Profiling Act

December 8, 2009

For the past 8 years, Congress has been trying to pass the End Racial Profiling Act, a law that would bar certain law enforcement agencies from using racial profiling as a tool to search for suspects. The Sikh Coalition is supporting this bill because of the impact that racial profiling can and is having on a minority as visible as Sikhs. The Baltimore Sun yesterday published the following op-ed on the topic, which provides a few great stories as reference points for why racial profiling is an ineffective policing method. Take a look: Read the rest of this entry »

NPR Station Carries Op-Ed Highlighting Challenges for Sikh Air Travelers

June 2, 2009

We perked up our ears this morning when we heard Sikhs mentioned on NPR’s Morning Edition broadcast. The local Northern California National Public Radio Station – KQED – carried a “Perspectives” piece by a debate coach talking about the challenges her Sikh student faces every time he clears security at a U.S. airport. Click here to hear the story.

Sikhing the Truth

Read the rest of this entry »

Watching the TSA’s Screening Policy

April 13, 2009

On my way to Washington DC for this week’s army campaign launch, I passed through a number of airports. Standing in line for security at Boston Logan, weary and out of breath from lugging my carry-ons across 2 terminals to change plans, I found myself smiling. Why? There, in the security lane next to mine was a young man wearing a sweatshirt and cargo shorts being patted down by a TSA officer. The officer slowly explained to him that because he was wearing loose fitting clothing, he would need to undergo a secondary screening. The sight had me nearly jumping for joy.

You see, from early on in the TSA campaign, I have always wondered why Sikh turbans are more likely to be searched than other “normal” items of clothing. In our meetings, we have often pressed the TSA to explain why our turbans need to be checked if the items they are afraid of are small enough to hide anywhere. Many Sikhs who have reported screenings to us have specifically noted that others with bulky or loose fitting clothing are permitted through, while Sikhs are stopped.

I’m not sure how TSOs at Boston Logan treat dastaars. I didn’t have a chance to watch a sardar going through during my short time there. But if the common sense approach I witnessed being used in this case is anything to go by, I’m hopeful we are on the right track!