Feds halt profiling put in place after Flight 253
BY NIRAJ WARIKOO
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
The U.S. government scrapped today its profiling guidelines at airports — enacted after the Christmas Day bomb attempt over Detroit — that had targeted people from 14 nations, mostly Muslim.
Instead of focusing on people from just 14 countries, the new policies will now apply to all passengers flying into the U.S. and depend on specific threats, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said today.
The department enacted the profiling guidelines on Jan. 3 after a Muslim man from Nigeria with ties to Islamic extremists tried to blow up a plane descending into Detroit.
Today’s repeal of that Jan. 3 order was praised by Arab-American and Muslim advocates.
“I salute our government for taking this step,” said Imad Hamad, the Dearborn-based regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. “I think it was totally irrational to punish people from 14 countries for the actions of one man.”
“It’s a good step in the right direction,” Hamad added. “Profiling should be about behavior, not ethnicity.”
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, people with ties to Arab and Muslim-majority countries have been targeted to help prevent terrorist attacks.
Dawud Walid, director of the Michigan-based chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also generally welcomed the changes.
“If people won’t be targeted based on nationality, that’s a welcome change,” Walid said. “Behavioral profiling is a better way to keep us safe rather than racial and ethnic profiling.”
Walid pointed to the recent cases of the Hutaree miltia in Michigan and the man who flew a plan into an IRS building in Texas as examples of violent acts or attempts not carried out by Muslims or Arab-Americans.
The Sikh Coalition, which advocates for people who practice the Sikh religion, also praised the move.
Walid and Hamad said they’re waiting to see how the new policies will play out in coming months.
In their announcement, the department said their new “threat-based aviation security system” will be “more effective and efficient” in ensuring safety.
They said the guidelines will be “tailored to reflect the most current information available to U.S. authorities and are based on real-time, threat-based intelligence that will now be applied to all passengers traveling to the United States.”