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Thompson, King ask TSA for explanation on reported Newark passenger profiling

Newark Liberty International

The leaders of  House Homeland Security Committee are interested in getting to the bottom of reports that racial profiling was routinely done by Transportation Security Administration screeners at Newark Liberty International Airport in 2008 and 2009.

A spokesman for ranking Member Rep. Bennie Thompson''s (D-MS) office told Government Security News on June 17 the congressman was in the process of drafting a letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole inquiring about the reports. Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has also asked for Pistole’s explanation of the reported practices.

The inquiries were initiated after New Jersey newspaper quoted an internal federal report that said several behavior detection officers (BDOs) at the airport had singled out Mexican and Dominican passengers for bag searches, questioning and document reviews.

On June 12, the New Jersey Star Ledger reported that between 2008 and 2009, a special unit of airport screeners at Newark International charged with detecting suspicious behavior, had engaged in racial profiling so often that other airport employees colleagues called them "Mexican hunters.” According to the newspaper, the details of the searches were in a federal document that was dubbed the "Boston Report" because it was compiled by a pair of TSA inquiry officers brought in from Boston Logan International Airport. The federal report was dated Jan. 25, 2010 and addressed to Newark’s federal security director at the time, Barbara Bonn Powell, according to the newspaper.

It said the special unit of BDOs, who are charged with detecting suspicious behavior, singled out Mexican and Dominican passengers for additional searches and scrutiny to boost the appearance of their productivity levels.

"TSA should halt the SPOT [Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques] program immediately until safeguards are put into place to address racial and ethnic profiling concerns," Thompson said in a statement.

 

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