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    Debate about Traveler Privacy, Passenger Profiling and Air Security

    The Obama administration announced that it will screen individuals based on their citizenship. Citizens of 14 countries (including Yemen, Pakistan, Cuba) will face “special scrutiny.” At the New York Times, there is a discussion among experts about whether profiling will actually improve national security. “Does it make sense to concentrate security efforts on more limited populations — through profiling, behavioral or otherwise? Is profiling effective, compared to other strategies?”

    The experts questioned are:

    An excerpt from Schneier’s statement: As counterintuitive as it may seem, we’re all more secure when we randomly select people for secondary screening — even if it means occasionally screening wheelchair-bound grandmothers and innocent looking children. And, as an added bonus, it doesn’t needlessly anger the ethnic groups we need on our side if we’re going to be more secure against terrorism.

    An excerpt from Sela’s statement: Behavior screening can be adapted with the smart technologies and advanced databases, all of which are now available. We have the know-how to bring the North American transportation security to the level of efficiency and control it needs.

    An excerpt from Al-Marayati’s statement: We need to focus less on tactics, and more on developing intelligence against terrorists. Our strategies put us in a defensive mode that focuses too much on what terrorists did last time. Technologies, and worse, ethnic and religious profiling, are expensive in terms of our civil liberties, privacy and money. They are also easily defeated by terrorists.

    An excerpt from Oakley’s statement: In this case, careful screening of those coming from countries where they may have been exposed to radical Islamic teachings makes sense even though it is a sad policy to have to implement.

    An excerpt from German’s statement: Plots that have been thwarted were uncovered by the hard work of connecting the facts with raw intelligence. That’s what works. We need to direct resources to investigations based on facts rather than bias.

    An excerpt from Jacobson’s statement: One solution is to use information about passengers (voluntarily provided and readily assessable) to eliminate those who have negligible risk factors, which should be the case for 60 to 70 percent of passengers. Then apply state-of-the art technologies for the remaining pool of passengers, for which less information is known, and subject them to the highest level of security screening, and in some cases, not allow them to fly.

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