Posted by AAI on January 08, 2010 in News Clips

The Arab American Institute (AAI) supports efforts by the Obama Administration to review transportation safety and national security policies in response to the attempted attack on Northwest flight 253. AAI endorses improved screening practices that effectively enhance our national security, safeguard American civil liberties, and demonstrate respect for the traveling public.

We are troubled, however, by reports that policies mirroring failed profiling regimes of the past have been introduced. As of this week, individuals traveling from or through Afghanistan, Algeria, Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen will be automatically subjected to enhanced screening procedures, including full body searches and luggage inspection, before boarding inbound flights to the United States.

Mandating secondary screening for every traveler from select Muslim-majority countries across the Middle East and Africa (Cuba is the lone exception), without indication of suspicious behavior or harmful intent, is an ineffective process that diverts valuable security resources and distracts from real and sophisticated threats. These measures, along with programs such as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) and assorted “Watch Lists,” ultimately weaken American security interests by adding layers of inconsistency and confusion to the interagency process; discouraging citizens in Middle Eastern countries from seeking opportunities in the United States; and elevating barriers of mistrust between communities both at home and abroad.

Because the safety of American lives is at stake, AAI urges the Administration and Congress to conduct a thorough review of this recent incident and adopt policies based on the following guidelines:

Profile Behavior, Not Religion or Geography
AAI believes that suspicion or questions of intent are effectively determined by evaluating an individual’s conduct or patterns of behavior. Sweeping, reactive policies that include profiling based on national origin, ethnicity, religion, or race have proven ineffective; misdirect valuable government resources; negatively effect foreign policy interests; and have risked isolating Arab American, Muslim, and other communities that could prove essential in protecting the United States.

Smarter, Streamlined Tracking Methods
AAI endorses security reforms that address current vulnerabilities and anticipate future threats to the traveling public. Relevant agencies should conduct a full review of existing screening programs and establish a comprehensive system, based on common interagency standards, to be universally applied to all foreign visitors.

Encourage Interagency, International Cooperation
AAI continues to support recommendations from The 9-11 Commission Report and urges enhanced interagency practices. Additional resources should be directed to U.S. Embassy personnel and agencies overseeing visa application and traveling processes, rather than increasing dependence on cumbersome airport screening that burdens a single agency.

Public Community-Government Engagement to Prevent Radicalization
AAI strongly supports efforts to strengthen and expand partnerships between communities and federal, state, and local officials. Increased opportunities for dialogue and engagement will ensure that America’s minority ethnic and religious communities are communicating with, not isolated from, their government representatives and officials.


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