Justice Department says air passenger screening not ethnically discriminatory
Safeguards recommended to keep security program unbiased
October 2, 1997
Web posted at: 1:00 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Federal Aviation Administration's proposed screening program to identify potentially dangerous airline passengers will not discriminate because of passengers' ethnicity, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday. But the department set out a series of recommendations to help keep the Computer Assisted Passenger Screening System (CAPS) from trampling civil liberties.
"As we seek to prevent airline terrorism, we must also uphold fundamental American liberties," Attorney General Janet Reno said in a statement. "With the recommendations we offer, the FAA's proposal will do both."
|An airline passenger talks about being detained because he "fit the profile" and an ACLU attorney discusses CAPS on CNN's "Burden of Proof."|
Read the transcript
Civil rights groups -- particularly Middle Eastern groups -- were concerned about whether the proposed system would unfairly target people based on their name, skin color or other factors. After its review of the system, the Justice Department said CAPS did not consider race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion or gender of airline passengers, nor did it use factors such as name or mode of dress.
The system, slated to be launched on December 31, tracks the travel history and possible criminal record of air passengers. It will use the computer reservation systems of U.S. airlines, based on information provided by passengers.
The Justice Department suggested that the FAA review the program frequently, require domestic airlines to get approval before implementing any additional screening proposal, and require airlines to train employees on CAPS' use.
The department's report also recommended that the Transportation Department step up its efforts to inform the public about the system, its intended use, and avenues for filing a complaint if a passenger believes he or she has been unfairly treated. And the report recommended that the Justice Department keep tabs on the system to ensure there is no discrimination.
"Arabs and Arab-Americans have been singled out at airports, particularly since the crash of TWA 800, which was widely and dubiously presumed to be a terrorist act," said Hala Maksoud, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, which said it would watch the system closely.
Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his group would also keep a close eye on the system, but said it was an improvement over the "flawed and discriminatory" manual procedures currently in use.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Note: Related sites will open in a new browser window.
© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
A Time Warner Company
All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this
service is provided to you.