This is an interesting article. The "Government" the article refers to is the UK government, not the USA. Here are a couple of things I find interesting:
- Why is it that the USA government cannot do the same thing? It is preposterous that the UK, with its much more liberal attitude has instituted these types of airport background checks, but the USA is still wanding 80-year-old grandmothers.
- I suppose it's not surprising that the liberal newspaper in the UK who wrote the article (The Times) chose to devote all of the content to how the Muslims feel about being checked, rather than explaining to the public about why the government sensibly instituted the additional checks. It's not surprising, but it is counter-intuitive.
Muslims face extra checks in new travel crackdown
By Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent
THE Government is discussing with airport operators plans to introduce a screening system that allows security staff to focus on those passengers who pose the greatest risk.
The passenger-profiling technique involves selecting people who are behaving suspiciously, have an unusual travel pattern or, most controversially, have a certain ethnic or religious background.
The system would be much more sophisticated than simply picking out young men of Asian appearance. But it would cause outrage in the Muslim community because its members would be far more likely to be selected for extra checks.
Officials at the Department for Transport (DfT) have discussed the practicalities of introducing such a system with airport operators, including BAA. They believe that it would be more effective at identifying potential terrorists than the existing random searches.
They also say that it would greatly reduce queues at security gates, which caused lengthy delays at London airports yesterday for the fifth day running. Heathrow and Gatwick were worst affected, canceling 69 and 27 flights respectively. BAA gave warning yesterday that the disruption would continue for the rest of the week.
Passengers are now allowed to take one small piece of hand luggage on board but security staff are still having to search 50 per cent of travelers. Airports have also been ordered to search twice as many hand luggage items as a week ago.
BAA was criticized yesterday for failing to commit itself to recruiting more security staff and for claiming that its existing 6,000 staff at seven airports would be able to handle the extra searches. Tony Douglas, the chief executive of Heathrow, said that X-ray screening of hand luggage would be much faster under the new rules on size and contents, leaving staff free to carry out more searches.
The new measures, which include a ban on taking any liquids through checkpoints, are expected to remain in place for months. A DfT source said it was difficult to see how the restrictions could be relaxed if terrorists now had the capability to make liquid bombs.
The DfT has been considering passenger profiling for a year but, until last week, the disadvantages were thought to outweigh the advantages. A senior aviation industry source said: "The DfT is ultra-sensitive about this and won't say anything publicly because of political concerns about being accused of racial stereotyping."
Three days before last week's arrests, the highest-ranking Muslim police officer in Britain gave warning that profiling techniques based on physical appearance were already causing anger and mistrust among young Muslims. Tarique Ghaffur, an assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said: "We must think long and hard about the causal factors of anger and resentment.
"There is a very real danger that the counter-terrorism label is also being used by other law-enforcement agencies to the effect that there is a real risk of criminalizing minority communities."
Sir Rod Eddington, former chief executive of British Airways, criticized the random nature of security searches. He said that it was irrational to subject a 75-year-old grandmother to the same checks as a 25-year-old man who had just paid for his ticket with cash.
Philip Baum, an aviation security consultant, said that profiling should focus on ruling out people who obviously posed no risk rather than picking out Asian or Arabs.
A DfT spokesman refused to make any comment or answer any questions on profiling.
- British Airways plans to cancel forty short-haul and four long-haul flights from Heathrow today as well as eleven domestic flights from Gatwick. Other airlines expect to operate near-normal schedules.
- All airports will allow passengers to carry one small piece of hand luggage, but no liquids are allowed through the security search point other than prescribed medicines and baby food.