Profiling Politics: TSA Move Revives Debate

Critics blast TSA for requiring mandatory pat-downs on passengers to U.S. from "high-risk" nations

In the wake of the botched Christmas Day terror attack, the TSA’s latest decision -- to require mandatory pat-downs of all international passengers from 14 “high-risk” nations -- has intensified the renewed debate over racial and religious profiling. Even before the TSA’s latest move, critics have blasted the government for overreaching, while supporters have hailed stepped-up security efforts:

  • “I understand there needs to be additional security…But this is extreme and very dangerous,” American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee legal director Nawar Shora tells The New York Times of the TSA’s decision. “All of a sudden people are labeled as being related to terrorism just because of the nation they are from.”
  • “Good,” writes blogger John Aravosis for the usually left-leaning Americablog. “This is the kind of thing I've been wanting to see.” 
  • "We are going to the exact same Racial/National Profiling Rules that so many decried under Bush," laments IndianaDemocrat for the progressive Daily Kos site. The problem wasn't that the system failed, Indiana blogs, it was "the PEOPLE that failed."    
  • “They can’t profile based on religion directly so they’re going to do it by proxy, with the circle of ‘countries of interest’ kept as small as possible to minimize the political heat,” writes Allahpundit for conservative water-cooler HotAir. “Nigeria and Lebanon are actually both religiously diverse, but needless to say, it ain’t the threat of Christian bomb plots that landed them on the list.” One country Allahpundit wants added to the list: Venezuela.
  • “We’d prefer a counterterrorism policy that is more benign and yet arguably more effective – profiling passengers based on behavior,” argues the editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune. “That used to be called being vigilant, and adding up clues when suspicions were raised about particular individuals because of what they do and not how they look or what religion they practice.”
  • “Are Muslim-only lines at airports next? The thought is offensive, disgusting, and blatantly unconstitutional. But it’s hardly far-fetched,” writes author Earl Ofari Hutchinson ahead of the TSA’s pat-down decision for ethnic media site New American Media. In some European countries Muslim men are already subject to defacto racial profiling, while pols in the U.S. have clamored for similar screening practices for years, he points out. Broad-based racial profiling “fuels even greater racial division, fear and hysteria,” Hutchinson writes.
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