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New TSA Guidelines Troubling and Ultimately Ineffective

Washington, D.C. | January 5, 2010 | www.adc.org |The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is deeply concerned by the new Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) directives, which went into effect on January 4th at midnight. According to news sources, these directives will require citizens from 14 countries, all Arab or Muslim countries, with the exception of Cuba, to go through enhanced security screening. Such screening can include full pat-downs, scans, delays, and anything associated with secondary screening – an extra search of the passenger’s carry-on luggage may also be required. News sources also stated that the directives are applicable to any travelers, including US CITIZENS, who have passed through one of these 14 countries, or who have taken flights that have originated from these 14 countries.

ADC is very troubled as such directives will have negative ramifications on Arab-Americans, citizens of the 14 countries, and all Americans who visit these countries. A disparate segment of the Arab-American community will be scrutinized because of these new guidelines. The blanket labeling of hundreds of millions of civilians based solely on their country of citizenship or travel is not only unfairly discriminatory based on national origin, but also improperly labels millions of innocent people as somehow suspect or possible terrorists.

The new directives came following the Christmas Day attempted airline attack that threatened our national security, and which ADC has strongly condemned. Implementing an effective and productive counterterrorism tool is paramount. However, casting a wide net against individuals based on their country of origin, race or religion is not an effective counterterrorism tool. During the past decade, similar racial, ethnic and religious profiling tactics and practices have time and again misdirected precious counterterrorism resources, damaged foreign relations with key allies, fueled the fires of extremists by giving them an excuse, stigmatized communities, and most importantly did not have any discernible impact on security. Based on precedent, these new directives will be no different than these past practices and their adverse consequences; and while such directives may appear to make us feel safer, the reality is that they discriminate against innocent persons and divert attention from real threats.

Resources must instead be focused on high-risk individuals based on proper intelligence, better coordination and communication between different governmental agencies. In addition, continued engagement with the Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian community groups must be strengthened, and must not be discouraged by ethnic profiling tactics.

ADC has been in contact with TSA and the Department Homeland Security (DHS) and is planning to file a complaint and request for additional information with the Department. ADC urges all travelers affected by these new guidelines to always comply with the Transportation Security Officer’s (TSO’s) request. In the event of any abuse or misuse of authority, please request the TSO’s name and badge number, and file a complaint with ADC’s Legal Department at legal@adc.org.

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NOTE TO EDITORS: The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non sectarian and non partisan, is the largest Arab-American civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980, by former Senator James Abourezk to protect the civil rights of people of Arab descent in the United States and to promote the cultural heritage of the Arabs. ADC has 38 chapters nationwide, including chapters in every major city in the country, and members in all 50 states.

The ADC Research Institute (ADC-RI), which was founded in 1981, is a Section 501(c)(3) educational organization that sponsors a wide range of programs on behalf of Arab Americans and of importance to all Americans.
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Media Contact: ADC Legal Director: Nawar Shora: 202-244-2990 or nshora@adc.org