Congressman: Why Is TSA Skipping Arabs?

| Tue May 31, 2011 7:20 PM EDT

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a video of Rep. Paul Broun (R-Georgia) talking about the TSA. According to Rep. Broun's statement on C-SPAN's Washington Journal, he saw the TSA pat-down a grandmother and a young child and let a man in "Arabian dress" sail right through. From Rep. Broun (10 minute mark in video embedded below): 

"And then right behind him [small child], was a guy in Arabian dress who just walks right through. Why are we patting down grandma and kids? We need to focus on those people who want to harm us. We have to identify those people, we do that through human intelligence, we do that through trying to get into the inner circle... and then focus on those individuals, not on the general public. Unfortunately, I think the Department of Homeland Security has focused more on the general public and has been afraid of political correctness: we've got to forget political correctness. We've got to start focusing on those people who want to harm us as a nation."

I'm not sure exactly what Arabian dress is (maybe baggy pants and a vest like Aladdin's?), but I actually agree with some of the things Rep. Broun is saying. I'm with Rep. Broun on the idea that the TSA needs to stop invasive searches and scans of the general public (which miss a lot of stuff anyway) and devote resources toward identifying actual, intended terrorists and their targets. However, Rep. Broun loses me when he implies that a dude in Arabian dress isn't part of the "general public". I can't tell if Rep. Broun wants the TSA to crack down only on men in ethnic dress, or on grandmas in Arabian dress too, but at any rate, stereotyping people and treating them differently based solely on their appearance isn't just "politically incorrect": it's discrimination.

In case Rep. Broun doesn't realize it, profiling has been happening for a while now, actually: many people of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent have been erroneously suspected of terrorism, either by the TSA, pilots, flight attendants, or even fellow passengers. However, these amateur profilers fail to differentiate between a possible terrorist and, say, an economics professor at California State University. If Rep. Broun needs more examples, I'm sure the ACLU would be happy to provide them.

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