Allegations surface of racial profiling by TSA at Logan Airport -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

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) 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.

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