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British debate racial profiling of air passengers after foiled terror plot

[JURIST] British police officials and rights groups have spoken out in response to reports that the UK Department For Transport (DFT) [official website] may implement an airplane passenger profiling program to identify potential terrorists in the wake of last week's foiled terror plot [JURIST report] to bomb US-bound passenger planes. Although DFT policy prevents it from commenting publicly on security measures, British media say the Department is considering a profiling system that would subject to security checks persons behaving unusually or traveling in a suspicious flight pattern, or those who appear to be Muslim or Middle Eastern. The Terrorism Act 2000 [text] already authorizes the DFT to consider certain passenger data in selecting persons for security searches. Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Ali Desai, a senior British Asian in the London police service, condemned any such move Tuesday night as racially discriminatory [CTV report], and British civil liberties groups have deplored the prospect of "flying while Asian."

The debate over the use of racial profiling in UK airports was first ignited over the weekend when outspoken former Metropolitan Police chief Lord Stevens told the UK tabloid paper News of the World that security profiling would reduce terrorism risks [editorial]. Several advocacy groups, including the Muslim Council of Britain, condemned Steven's position [press release] as discriminatory and ineffective, instead calling for a security approach informed by intelligence [Scotsman report] rather than passenger profiling. BBC News has more.

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