Sikh fliers fume over turban checks in US

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Old 08-Nov-2010
Sikh fliers fume over turban checks in US

Sikh fliers fume over turban checks in US

Washington: Three national Sikh advocacy and civil rights organizations have said federal transportation officials plan to always search turbans at airport screening stations, even if wearers pass through state-of-the-art body imaging scanners.
The groups are calling on their constituents to lobby Congress and the Transportation Security Administration to overturn what they said was an “unjust policy”.

Officials from the Sikh Coalition, United Sikhs and the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund went public on Friday about their meeting several weeks ago with representatives of the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA.
“All of us jointly feel there are definitely some elements of racial profiling here,” said Jasjit Singh, associate director of the legal defense fund, a civil rights group in Washington.

Hansdeep Singh, a senior staff lawyer for United Sikhs, based in New York, said the meeting in Washington was arranged to hear about how new “advanced imaging technology” scanners would affect Sikhs, who had hoped the devices would eliminate the need for extra screening that they say they are subjected to at airports.

“We went in there with high hopes,” Singh said. But the Sikhs said they were told that the turbans will be treated “as a per se anomaly,” Singh said. That will give security officers the discretion they already have — to conduct additional screening of the turbans, which they usually do already, according to the Sikhs.

They said TSA officials declined to tell them whether the scanner is incapable of seeing through a turban, which typically has layers of fabric.

When selected for further screening, Sikhs have the option of having their turbans patted down by a TSA officer or patting down their own turbans, after which their hands are inspected for trace chemicals. They will also be screened with a hand-held metal detector, which they say is a new level of screening.

Body scanners are designed to identify explosives, like the type used by a Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a transcontinental airliner over Detroit last Christmas.

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