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ACLU Criticizes New TSA Rules

Too close to racial profiling, says Michael German, a former FBI counterterrorism agent who’s now the civil liberties organization’s national-security legal counsel. From a new statement:

“We should be focusing on evidence-based, targeted and narrowly tailored investigations based on individualized suspicion, which would be both more consistent with our values and more effective than diverting resources to a system of mass suspicion,” said Michael German, national security policy counsel with the ACLU Washington Legislative Office and a former FBI agent. “Overbroad policies such as racial profiling and invasive body scanning for all travelers not only violate our rights and values, they also waste valuable resources and divert attention from real threats.”

According to the ACLU, the government’s plan to subject citizens of certain countries to enhanced screenings is bad policy, because there is no way to predict the national origin of a terrorist and many terrorists have come from countries not on the list. For instance, the “shoe bomber” Richard Reid is a British citizen, as were four of the London subway bombers, and in 2005 a Belgian woman launched a suicide attack in Iraq.

“Singling out travelers from a few specified countries for enhanced screening is essentially a pretext for racial profiling, which is ineffective, unconstitutional and violates American values. Empirical studies of terrorists show there is no terrorist profile, and using a profile that doesn’t reflect this reality will only divert resources by having government agents target innocent people,” said German. “Profiling can also be counterproductive by undermining community support for government counterterrorism efforts and creating an injustice that terrorists can exploit to justify further acts of terrorism.”

Why, I made the Richard Reid point myself earlier today.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified German as ACLU national-security director. That’s Jameel Jaffer. Apologies to both individuals, and to you.

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