Posted on April 06, 2010 in Washington Watch

Announcement of New Measures Based on Intelligence Gathering Cautiously Welcomed

Changing a hastily adopted policy set earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on April 2, 2010 that it is altering the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) policy of heightened security screening for individuals – including U.S. citizens – traveling to and from 14 specific countries. With the exception of Cuba, the directive targeted individuals traveling from Muslim-majority or Middle Eastern countries with no regard as to whether the passengers posed an individualized threat.

In announcing the new policy that will apply to all travelers, DHS Secretary Napolitano stated, “These new measures utilize real-time, threat-based intelligence along with multiple, random layers of security, both seen and unseen, to more effectively mitigate evolving terrorist threats.” We believe that by relying on this approach, the new security protocols will be far more effective in identifying and combating genuine threats while not promoting a discriminatory approach.

Along with other organizations, AAI had actively worked against the ill-advised policy having met with DHS and TSA officials and sent a letter to Secretary Napolitano immediately after the policy was issued on January 3, 2010. At a meeting with Secretary Napolitano AAI President James Zogby noted that not only had the 14 country targeting created ill will in the Arab World, but it posed real concerns to Arab American travelers who would be visiting Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, Yemen, etc. this summer.  

Further, at an AAI-organized congressional briefing on the subject, panelists highlighted the critical point that profiling on the basis of ethnicity and national origin is an unreliable means of identifying criminal behavior.  Such policies fail to make us safer because they divert attention and resources from legitimate intelligence work.

The welcomed new measure is part of the Administration’s ongoing Surface Transportation Security Priority Assessment. Because the details of this new program are not known, AAI will monitor its implementation to determine whether or not Arab travelers are subjected to profiling.

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