ACLU Warns Airline Passenger Profiling Ineffective, Discriminatory; Launches Web Complaint Form

February 27, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today told a House subcommittee that airline passenger profiling would be a dangerously ineffective, invasive and potentially discriminatory practice and announced that it is launching a web-based complaint form to track and document profiling abuses.

“Historically, profiling has been used as a cost cutting measure when security resources were scarce,” said Katie Corrigan, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “History has also shown it to be an ineffective security measure that is an affront to personal privacy and creates the risk of discrimination.”

Corrigan testified this morning before the House Aviation Subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation at a hearing on passenger profiling.

Also today the ACLU announced the launch of a new complaint form it has made available on its website for victims of profiling. The online form (Click here to launch form) — allows airline passengers to provide details of discriminatory or abusive security screening incidents, and asks passengers to report information about their flight, themselves, and who mistreated them. Corrigan said the ACLU would use the data collected on its web site to look for patterns of improper security screening. All personal data, she said, will be kept confidential on request.

“We hope that any information obtained by this form will help highlight the dangers of profiling,” Corrigan said.

The ACLU has long supported a number of alternative airline security measures, including baggage matching, limitations on the number of carry on bags, increased training for airline security personnel, strict control of secure areas in airports and cockpit door fortifications.

Profiling, however, is an ineffective practice, which has been used to the actual detriment of effective security in the past, the ACLU said. In 1972, the last year the United States used profiles to determine whose carry-on luggage would be X-rayed to stop hijacking, there were 28 hijackings of U.S. aircraft anyway. Hijacking dropped off when profiling was abandoned and every passenger’s carry-on luggage was X-rayed.

Critics of profiling have also objected to its invasive nature and the potential it holds for discrimination based on ethnicity, race or national origin.

Click here for the ACLU’s online aviation profiling form

Corrigan’s testimony can be found at:

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