Commentary: Why the TSA’s Practices Need to Be Investigated

Travelers shouldn’t have to worry about “flying while black.”

Posted: 08/21/2012 05:34 PM EDT
Transportation Security Administration officer

Earlier this month, a report was published by the New York Times saying that the TSA’s anti-terrorist program, Screening Passengers by Observation Technique (SPOT), is “rife” with racial profiling.

SPOT, which is being touted as a model for the rest of the nation, is a special program modeled after a process used by Israeli officers. It is designed to train officers to recognize certain suspicious behavior such as fear, stress or deception. The program says these signs could be an indication that the person might be a potential terrorist and needs further investigation.

“Flying while black” is happening more often than you think. According to the The New YorkTimes, more than 30 TSA behavioral detection officers (BDOs) working at the Logan International Airport in Boston alleged that fellow TSA officers applied these SPOT techniques to a number of minorities. Arab Americans, Latino Americans traveling to Miami and African-Americans wearing athletic clothing and expensive jewelry were among the list of those most likely to be stopped for suspicious behavior.

Perhaps this has happened to you. You’re a person of color waiting in the security line before catching your flight when you are approached by a TSA officer and asked to undergo further investigation. You and your belongings are thoroughly searched. You are interrogated about your identity, your home address and your trip repeatedly until you finally convince the officer that you are not a threat to national security.

This is racial profiling, and it’s not only wrong, it is illegal. For many law-abiding citizens, the act of traveling by air is already stressful enough. Minorities don’t need to be singled out in a line and subjected to invasive interrogation tactics simply because of the color of their skin.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

 

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