Lawmakers call for hearings over alleged TSA racial profiling
Behavior Detection Officers with the Transportation Security Administration screen baggage at the Logan International Airport in Boston. (Source: U.S. Transportation Security Administration)
BOSTON (RNN) - Policymakers are calling for a review of the Transportation Security Administration's screening procedures after allegations of racial profiling at Boston's Logan International Airport surfaced in a New York Times report Saturday.
According to the report, the TSA's attempts at using "behavior detection" techniques to stop potential terror threats have deteriorated into racial profiling targeting Middle Easterners, blacks and Hispanics in particular.
In the Aug. 11 report in the New York Times, five TSA officers spoke out about the agency's alleged misuse of "behavior detection" techniques on the condition of anonymity.
"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," an officer, who was identified as white, told the New York Times.
Another officer said the focus on a person's race, which is allegedly driven by pressure from management to stop, search and refer high numbers of people, "takes officers away from the real threat, and we could miss terrorist be are looking for."
The TSA announced it has opened an investigation into the allegations. However, Rep. William Keating, D-MA, the ranking member on the Committee on Homeland Security's Oversight and Investigation subcommittee, said in a press release that "in matters of civil rights being violated, the investigation shouldn't be left to the agency itself."
"The behavioral detection program, if implemented properly, offers another level of security that technological screening cannot," Keating said. "However, if the program is skewed by racial profiling, it is not only illegal; it undercuts the effectiveness of the program itself."
Ranking Member Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-MS, of the Homeland Security Committee, also called for a hearing but opened his request to the full committee.
"As the agency charged with the responsibility of protecting the nation's transportation systems, TSA must make clear that racial profiling will not be tolerated," he wrote in a letter to the committee's chairman, Rep. Peter King, R-NY.
The executive director of the Massachusetts Port Authority, David S. Mackey, said Sunday the airport operator was taking the allegations of profiling seriously and "eager" to hear the findings of the federal investigation.
"There is no place for racial profiling in any security program," Mackey said. "It is illegal and it is not effective."
The TSA has been pilot testing behavioral detection procedures at the Logan and Detroit International airports and has plans to spread the procedures to other airports in the future.
The Government Accountability Office has also questioned whether the TSA's behavioral detection techniques are effective, noting in many reports on the subject that policies were piloted and implemented without any hard scientific evidence to back the claim that it is more effective than random testing.
It's not the first time the TSA has come under fire for alleged racial profiling. In 2011, airports in New Jersey and Hawaii reported small amounts of suspected profiling. According to the New York Times, employees allege profiling is "rampant," at Logan Airport, with more than 30 officers coming under their investigation.
Approximately 600 million passengers are screened each year by TSA agents.
Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
Monday, June 17 2013 9:59 PM EDT2013-06-18 01:59:19 GMT
LYNCHBURG, VA (RNN) – Kimberly Burke is used to capturing emotion. As a wedding photographer, she has an eye for tender moments, like the photo she snapped of a Marine and his bride praying that has goneMore >>
A quiet moment captured before a couple wed has brought collective "awws" by millions on the internet.More >>
Monday, June 17 2013 4:00 PM EDT2013-06-17 20:00:50 GMT
(RNN) – Edward Snowden gave a clear warning to the U.S. government Monday: Neither his incarceration or death would prevent the release of information he gathered on "unconstitutional acts." "Truth isMore >>
Edward Snowden, the source of NSA leaks on PRISM and other American surveillance programs, gave answers for nearly two hours in a live online chat with The Guardian Monday.More >>
Monday, June 17 2013 8:26 AM EDT2013-06-17 12:26:23 GMT
(RNN) - Good news for the fans of eHarmony, Match.com and Christian mingle.com A new study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) says marriages thatMore >>
A study says marriages that began online are more successful than marriages that began traditionally. More >>
Saturday, June 15 2013 8:03 AM EDT2013-06-15 12:03:07 GMT
(RNN) - If you have formed no hardcore beliefs in life you can at least believe this - people will find a way to complain about anything. I mean, what's the big deal with the NSA snooping on folks? IfMore >>
If a man in a horse mask playing drums on the street isn't the highlight of your day, what's wrong with you?More >>
Friday, June 14 2013 9:13 AM EDT2013-06-14 13:13:19 GMT
(RNN) - A chemical plant caught fire in Baton Rouge, LA, on Thursday. At least one person has died and more than 70 were injured in the explosion. George Zimmerman was in court for the selection of theMore >>
The trial of George Zimmerman, the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government and the U.S. government's hunt for the NSA whistle-blower are a few of the stories that caught our eye this week.More >>
Friday, June 14 2013 7:00 AM EDT2013-06-14 11:00:17 GMT
(RNN) - A degree does not guarantee a job, and some graduates have already or will soon find that out. The good news is people are earning college degrees at an unprecedented rate. The bad news is half ofMore >>
Comedian Bill Cosby's book said it best: Congratulations! Now What? That has been a long-held sentiment toward college grads, but it's more appropriate now than ever.More >>