New airline passenger screening unconstitutional: rights groups

Civil rights groups Jan. 4 opposed stricter screening procedures for passengers entering the US from 14 countries, calling the measures unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called on the US government to “adhere to longstanding standards of individualized suspicion and enact security measures that are the least threatening to civil liberties and are proven to be effective.”

Former FBI agent and national security policy counsel with the ACLU Michael German said:

Singling out travelers from a few specified countries for enhanced screening is essentially a pretext for racial profiling, which is ineffective, unconstitutional and violates American values. Empirical studies of terrorists show there is no terrorist profile, and using a profile that doesn’t reflect this reality will only divert resources by having government agents target innocent people. Profiling can also be counterproductive by undermining community support for government counterterrorism efforts and creating an injustice that terrorists can exploit to justify further acts of terrorism.

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) national executive director Nihad Awad said that the new screening measures amount to “religious profiling” against Muslims. A spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) responded to CNN that the new procedures do not amount to racial or ethnic profiling.

The enhanced screening procedures, which will affect travelers entering the US from Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, come after Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab apparently attempted to detonate an explosive device on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 last month. Abdulmutallab has been charged with willfully attempting to destroy an aircraft or aircraft facilities. President Barack Obama last week announced steps the federal government is taking to address air travel security following the incident. He said that as soon as the attempted attack was discovered, officials increased screening requirements and boosted the number of air marshals aboard flights. He also confirmed that he had ordered the review of how the US “no-fly” list is managed as well as screening and other security procedures. (Jurist, Jan. 5)

The presence of Cuba on the list is especially ironic.

See our last posts on Islamophobia and the domestic police state.

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  1. $500 fine for kissing at Newark
    Haisong Jiang, the man who sparked a six-hour lockdown at Newark Airport when he slipped under a security cordon to kiss his girlfriend good-bye, faced a $500 fine for “defiant trespassing.” (AP, VOA, Jan. 9)

    1. He’s lucky!
      New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg is trying to get him a prison sentence and I’m sure there’s a bunch of former passengers in Newark Terminal C who would like to see him lynched.
      Moderation in law enforcement – especially when it comes to airline security or terrorism – is gone.