It had come to my mind the other day that I hadn’t seen much more fallout from the TSA’s new aggressive screening procedures.
And then today, I receive this news in my inbox:
December 9, 2010 (Washington, DC) – The Sikh Coalition filed a formal complaint this week with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on behalf of Mr. Daljeet Singh Mann, a business traveler, who was forced to remove his dastaar (Sikh turban) on two separate occasions within a span of only three days.
Random searching, or racial/ethnic profiling? In the first incident, even though he passed the TSA’s initial screening of his turban, Mann was forced into the humiliating act of removing it for additional inspection. His luggage was searched, and he was subjected to the full, invasive patdown. They found nothing.
Is it a coincidence that this occurred at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)? This airport historically has a poor track record in screening turban-wearing Sikhs for air travel. It was reported that in 2008, 100% of turban-wearing Sikhs were screened even though that wasn’t TSA’s policy at the time. This reeked of racial profiling and while the situation improved at SFO with the intervention of the Sikh Coalition in that year, it is obvious that SFO is still a concern given how Mann was treated. As the TSA official put it, they “dropped the ball” in following their own procedures with Mann. Unfortunately, Mann’s civil rights were in that ball as well.
Days later, his treatment at Sacramento International Airport wasn’t much better, where he was subjected to questioning even after Mann cleared all of TSA’s forced inspections.
It’s unfortunate, not only in the humiliation of Mann but also in that such profiling is not effective, as concluded by a recent study:
Plucking out of line most of the vaguely Middle Eastern-looking men at the airport for heightened screening is no more effective at catching terrorists than randomly sampling everyone. It may even be less effective.
The problem is that the TSA has crossed the line and is legitimizing racial profiling. It’s less effective at catching terrorists, perhaps. On the other hand, it’s quite effective at humiliating innocent people.