Dr. Dawg

Racial profiling at airports

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TSA patdown.jpg

Sure, we get that all the time—some member of a visible minority gets pulled out of line for a chat and plays the old victim card. Right?

Except that the victimization would appear to be real. Now we have US Transport Security Agency officers themselves coming forward to complain about it.

More than 30 federal officers in an airport program intended to spot telltale mannerisms of potential terrorists say the operation has become a magnet for racial profiling, targeting not only Middle Easterners but also blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.

In interviews and internal complaints, officers from the Transportation Security Administration’s “behavior detection” program at Logan International Airport in Boston asserted that passengers who fit certain profiles — Hispanics traveling to Miami, for instance, or blacks wearing baseball caps backward — are much more likely to be stopped, searched and questioned for “suspicious” behavior.

“They just pull aside anyone who they don’t like the way they look — if they are black and have expensive clothes or jewelry, or if they are Hispanic,” said one white officer, who along with four others spoke with The New York Times on the condition of anonymity.

TSA officials are expected to produce, by hassling large numbers of travellers: there appears to be a quota system in place. So some, perhaps unsurprisingly, are taking shortcuts:

The officers identified nearly two dozen co-workers who they said consistently focused on stopping minority members in response to pressure from managers to meet certain threshold numbers for referrals to the State Police, federal immigration officials or other agencies.

The stops were seen as a way of padding the program’s numbers and demonstrating to Washington policy makers that the behavior program was producing results, several officers said.

Every security system known to humankind feeds on itself in precisely this fashion. Liberty is incrementally abandoned in favour of safety. Paved with good intentions or not, we can be sure that the road to Hell is well patrolled by imps in blue plastic gloves.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on August 12, 2012 12:04 PM.

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