Airport checks may affect racial, religious groups

Passenger profiling in the mix in UK

A Whitehall source told The Guardian that passenger profiling was “in the mix” of the review into airport security ordered this week by Premier Gordon Brown after the failed attempt to blow up a transatlantic jet on Christmas Day.

The development came as airline industry chiefs warned it would be impossible to screen all travellers with a new generation of body scanners the government now wants introduced at airports. Airport industry executives warn the scanners are currently too big, slow and expensive to make their widespread installation viable. Costing around £100,000 each, they take up much more space than the arch metal detectors currently in use and require longer to check every passenger.

Many in the industry have long called for the profiling of passengers to detect potential terrorists. But while it is claimed spotters would primarily be watching for suspicious behaviour, there are fears travellers will be selected for enhanced checks based on race, religion and ethnicity.

“They would be looking for people who are acting differently from regular passengers. However, it is going to appear to target a particular group of people because sadly it is that group of people that is presenting the problem at the moment,” said Norman Shanks, a former head of security at BAA, the UK’s largest airport operator.
The Airport Operators Association (AOA) and BAA support passenger profiling. “We would like to see a combination of technology and passenger profiling,” a BAA spokesman said.
Shanks said a successful profiling system should train airline check-in staff and other people working at airports how to spot unusual behaviour.
The exact criteria used to produce a passenger profile is secret but could also include factors such as how a ticket was bought, whether the passenger had check-in luggage, as well as the person’s behaviour.

Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, warned against an overreaction to the latest security alert. “We all take our security seriously but we need to learn the lessons of the recent past. Any response to terrorism has to be proportionate and respectful of the human rights values of dignity, privacy and liberty that governments on both sides of the Atlantic have been all too easily tempted to ignore.”
The Labour MP Khalid Mahmood said he would encourage the Muslim community to accept profiling.
The Guardian

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