Debate in U.S., Britain over airline passenger profiling
Homeland security officials in both the U.S. and in Britain are calling for expanded government monitoring and airline passenger profiling. House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, (R-N.Y.), even suggests pulling those of Middle Eastern descent out of airport lines for additional questioning, Congress Daily reports.
Lawmakers and administration officials are now evaluating whether doing more surveillance and profiling of people makes more sense than trying to deploy technology for every conceivable threat.
“It’s not all about technology,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “If we can’t get a reasonable amount of information on people who are getting on airplanes, and if we can’t get it in a timely fashion, we are tying our hands against what is still a very serious threat.”
The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly finalizing a rule to require all international flights to provide passenger data to Customs’ Advanced Passenger Information System, which checks that information against government watch lists.
King told CongressDaily he is open to hearing arguments from the administration for new legal authority, and also suggested that airport officials “should consider Middle Eastern ethnic background as a reason for further questioning.”
Given limited resources, King explains, treating everybody the same in the screening process might not make the best sense. But King said he believes the Bush administration has sufficient power through the president’s constitutional authorities and the USA PATRIOT Act.
In Britain, officials at the Department for Transport are considering a profiling system to select people behaving suspiciously, who have an unusual travel pattern or a certain ethnic or religious background, AFP reports.
It comes after Lord John Stevens, the former chief of London’s Metropolitan Police, told The News of The World mass-circulation newspaper that airport chaos could be reduced by targeting passengers for more rigorous checks, with “young Muslim men” a focus.