Since 9/11, security has become a major issue in the United States of America. For the last ten years, security has become one of the top priorities of the US government. Airports, sea ports, government departments and even private institutions have planned and implemented security programs all over the country to ensure the protection of the citizens of the United States of America.
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Airports are the main gates used by most of the travelers to enter a state from abroad or to travel from one city to another within a country. In this era of war, terrorism and retaliation, airports have to strictly monitor the individuals entering or leaving the country through air travel.
The attacks of 9/11 have increased pressure on the aviation authorities of almost all the countries in the world including the US to manage and monitor the flow of passengers using air travel. Managements of airports all over the United States have revamped and implemented tight security programs to tackle the problem of potential terrorists entering the US.
A few days after the 9/11 attacks, Congress passed the Aviation and Transport Security Act. Later, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was established. In accordance with TSA, government employees were given the charge of airport security all over the country. The TSA has implemented programs for screening passengers and the baggage that they carry.
X-rays scanners, metal detectors, and bomb detectors were initially used for the screening. Later on, during 2010, full body scanner, pat downs and strip searches were also introduced by the TSA which led to much rage and criticism amongst the passengers (Bajoria).
Some questions were raised by experts over the effectiveness of such security programs which led to the introduction of profiling. Profiling uses the available information about the passengers to judge whether they are low risk or high risk.
Information such as behavior, criminal record, ethnicity, religion and travelling history is used to determine the level of risk of a passenger. High risk passengers are questioned and made to go through full body scans or pat downs. Low risk passengers usually face lesser problems during their journey from the entrance of the airport to the waiting lounge.
Profiling and security screening at the airports of the US as well as other western countries have become hot topics of debate all over the international media. This study aims to discuss some pros and cons of profiling and security screening at the US airports, but the main emphasis will be laid on the shortcomings of such programs.
It has been witnessed that the policies implemented by powerful governments are presented to the general public in a way which either keeps them from questioning it or convinces them to allow the authorities to discriminate a particular group of people. Well, it’s not enough to write a sentence and then expect the reader to understand and analyze the whole situation without providing strong arguments. So let’s start with the most widely known issues related to profiling and security programs.
The first question raised on this issue is that whether profiling is effective or not. Well, we need strong arguments to agree or disagree. The advocates of the profiling and security screening programs argue that such security procedures are helpful in keeping the country safe. They insist that full body scans and pat downs can make it difficult for the terrorists to conduct their activities in the country and so it will be better to implement such programs.
While making such arguments, they tend to forget that the terrorist organizations are very capable of using other tactics to conduct terror attacks. Terrorists usually have a strong network of intelligence and so it’s not that easy to catch them. The terrorists are not foolish enough to walk through the airport gates knowing that the security programs implemented there are very much advanced and there are chances that they will be caught.
Many countries are profiling their citizens, including the US. The terrorists have another option of employing people from countries where profiling is not implemented yet, to conduct attacks. Profiling also includes noticing the general behavior of the individual while being interrogated. Terrorists can easily pretend to be someone else while such interrogations take place.
It would be better to discuss Umar Farouk (also called underwear bomber) who was caught in December 2009 carrying explosives attached to his under garments. Well, the US government report showed that there was confusion about whether x ray scanners were able to detect the bomb or not. Also, these machines cannot detect anything hidden inside the body; consider the example of drug traffickers making use of capsules to transport heroin / drugs.
Different people have different opinions about the effectiveness of such security programs. Some argue that profiling is more effective than pat downs and full body scans because checking the past records and asking some extra questions does not provoke the passenger as much as invading his or her privacy does.
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There is another issue which adds more spice to the debate. Many people argue that, the manufacturers of those machines and technology have considerable influence on the government, and it is well known that in the capitalist system of the US, the big corporations have a major influence on the government, and so they force the government to ease their path to making big profits.
Well, billions of dollars were spent on the purchases and installation of these security screening machines. Who paid? The public obviously, who is angry at the new procedures? The public again, who made billions? The manufacturers.
Now it’s up to the readers to analyze the situation and then make their opinion (Debatepedia).
Next discussion involves the issue of privacy of individuals which is invaded by the security personnel at the airports who “in the name of duty” deprive the individuals of the most basic human rights of liberty and privacy.
During 2010, TSA introduced full body scanners at majority of the air ports of the country. Full body scanners enable the security staff to look through the passenger’s clothes and search for weapons or any other kind of dangerous apparatus which may threaten the safety of others on board.
Many passengers have expressed anger over such programs due to obvious reasons. Invasion of an individual’s privacy is by no means acceptable to that individual even if it is legally implemented by the government. Passengers at many of the major airports of the country have complained about how humiliating such security procedures are.
It is, more or less, like some form of erotic photography. Supporters of such programs insist on the need for such security checks while ignoring the importance people give to privacy, values and respect. The advocates of such security programs claim that, implementing such programs will reduce the risk of terrorist attacks in the country. Some answers to this argument have already been given.
Another important issue related to this problem is the problem of discrimination in profiling. Majority of the Muslim and South Asian passengers expressed anger on the issue of discrimination on the basis of religion. It is not a coincidence that only Arab, Pakistani, Indian and African Muslims are singled out and interrogated.
The west may have lost all of its values and culture, but the majority of the Muslims today value religious obligations and culture. Full body scans, especially, proved to be the most provoking for the Muslims at the US airports. Screening and pat downs of Muslim women has enraged the Muslims all over the world.
Why is it that only the women wearing the Hijab are asked to stand out for extra interrogation only because she is wearing loose dress and a head cover while the rest of the women are only required to go through normal procedures? I consider this not as an accident. It is the practice of deliberately discriminating the Muslims. It’s not racial profiling, but racial discrimination indeed (NPR).
The debate over the topic of profiling and security screening often excludes the opinion of the security staff working at the airports. Many security personnel have expressed disgust about their jobs of conducting pat downs, screenings, interrogations and even strip searches. They hate to touch other people while performing body searches and usually provide passengers the opportunity to abuse them. However, passengers also give the staff a hard time (Daily Mail Reporter).
Bajoria, Jayshree. “The Debate Over Airport Security.” Web.
Debatepedia. “Airport security profiling.“. Web.
NPR. “Challenge: Airport Screening Without Discrimination.“. Web.