- The Washington Times - Monday, January 14, 2002

PARIS Airlines are devising a new way of classifying their passengers, and it has nothing to do with first class or cattle class.
In tomorrow's security-conscious world, you either will volunteer personal information in advance to the airline on which you want to fly and get onto a "clean" list once your details are verified or submit to lengthy questioning each time you board a plane.
U.S. and British airlines are pioneering schemes introduced after September 11 that allow their regular fliers who are on the computer to go straight through security with just a glance at an iris-identification machine.
Everyone else is increasingly likely to have to go through the sort of "profiling" procedure that spotted terrorist suspect Richard C. Reid as a potential security threat before French police allowed him on the flight from Paris to Miami. He is said to have tried to blow up that flight with a bomb in his shoe.
Racial profiling is outlawed in much of the United States. An Arab-American member of President Bush's Secret Service detail is suing American Airlines for refusing him permission to fly with his handgun on Christmas Day, saying it was his ethnic origin that set off alarm bells.
But the Federal Aviation Administration makes security profiling obligatory for all U.S. international carriers.
The biggest firm in the profiling business is International Consultants for Targeted Security (ICTS), an Israeli company based in the Netherlands. It was the employees of ICTS at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris who found Mr. Reid so suspicious as he sought to board a Dec. 21 American Airlines flight that they turned him over to the French police. The police did not find Mr. Reid's name on a list of suspects, and his papers were in order, so they allowed him to fly the next day.
ICTS has contracts with more than 100 airlines worldwide, including many of the big U.S. and European carriers, and employs 5,000 people at 50 airports in 12 European countries, said Zamir Eldar, head of European operations for ICTS.
The company will not disclose the details of its profiling procedure, but the goal is "to profile each passenger, to determine whether he is a business or tourist passenger, or a potential terrorist," said Mr. Eldar.
Before check-in, each passenger on an airline that has contracted ICTS' profiling services is questioned in detail about his or her travel plans. ICTS employees are trained to look especially for passengers who have bought their tickets with cash, or recently, who have one-way tickets, or who arrive late for a flight.
Their suspicions also are aroused by passengers who have no luggage to check, or whose baggage does not seem to "fit" for example, a young man who might be expected to carry a backpack, but who instead is carrying an expensive suitcase.
"A lot of it is in the nose," said John Beam, a former head of security for Trans World Airlines (TWA) who is now an independent air-safety consultant.
The questioning, based on a procedure developed by Israeli security officials at Tel Aviv airport, is often intrusive. Passengers are expected to give the names of people they have met and places they have visited during their travels, to explain exactly why they are flying, and to say where they have been staying.
The questioning often seems racially biased, betraying the security guards' own stereotypes.
"At ICTS," established by former Israeli security specialists, "there was a general sense that all terrorists are Palestinians and all Palestinians are terrorists," said Mr. Beam, who hired the company to work with TWA in the 1980s. "Their standards were good, but they had tunnel vision."
The fear that security profiling easily can become racial profiling is behind U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta's refusal so far to institute profiling for all domestic flights. Mr. Mineta spent time in an internment camp for Americans of Japanese origin during World War II.
It also explains why an airline such as British Airways does not rigorously profile its passengers. "It is very difficult," explained airline spokesman John Lampl. "We carry so many different people from different cultures and all four corners of the world, of every race, color and creed, and we have to take that into account."
An element of racial profiling is bound to enter into any judgment about the risk a passenger poses, security specialists say. "It's something that won't go away," said Mr. Beam.
All the 19 men believed to have carried out the September 11 attacks on the United States were young Arab Muslims. That focuses security guards' attention on all young Arab Muslim men when they fly.


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