Rights groups claim enhanced US airline passenger screening unconstitutional

[JURIST] Civil rights groups on Monday opposed stricter screening procedures [TSA press release] for passengers entering the US from 14 countries, calling the measures unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] called on [press release] 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) [advocacy website] National Executive Director Nihad Awad said [press release] that the new screening measures amount to "religious profiling" against Muslims. A spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) [official website] maintained that the new procedures do not amount to racial or ethnic profiling [CNN report]. Pro-troop advocacy group Move America Forward (MAF) [advocacy website] responded [press release] that "law enforcement [needs] to have the freedom and ability to scrutinize and follow up on anyone without fear of being labeled a 'racist' or '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 attempted to detonate an explosive device on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 last month. Abdulmutallab has been charged [JURIST report] with willfully attempting to destroy an aircraft or aircraft facilities in violation of 18 USC § 32 [text]. Last week, US President Barack Obama announced steps [JURIST report] 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 increased the number of air marshals aboard flights. He also confirmed that he had ordered the review of how the US no-fly list [JURIST news archive] is managed as well as screening and other security procedures.

 

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