- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 7, 2002

Phillip Christy, waiting to fly from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to Seattle, has been randomly singled out for extra screening a few times since September 11. He says it's only fair.
"Random is appropriate," said Mr. Christy, of Frederick, Md. "It's unexpected as to who they might look for."
That's what Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta says as well, though his opposition to considering a person's ethnicity in the interest of airline security puts him at odds with some members of Congress.
"It is very tempting to take false comfort in the belief that we can spot the bad guy based on appearance alone," Mr. Mineta told an Arab-American group in Detroit recently. "Some are yielding to that temptation in their arguments for racial profiling, but false comfort is a luxury we cannot afford."
All passengers are screened by a computerized profiling system which takes into account travel history, how the tickets were paid for, whether the trip is one-way or round-trip and other factors that are classified and selects some travelers for additional checks, including luggage searches.
Other passengers are randomly singled out for additional screening, a policy that angers some lawmakers when they see elderly women in wheelchairs or infirm military veterans being pulled out of line.
"It's not known that aged World War II veterans or grandmothers are any part of any threat profile by any known intelligence agency," said Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, Oregon Democrat and member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure aviation subcommittee.
But Mr. Mineta, whose family was interned during World War II because of its Japanese ancestry, steadfastly objects to using a person's ethnicity when selecting passengers for extra screening.
Some lawmakers, nevertheless, insist that it should be one of the many strategies used.
"You have to have a broad range of identifying characteristics," said Rep. John L. Mica, Florida Republican, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure aviation subcommittee. "I have no problem with the country of origin; that can help sort out some of the bad guys. What we have advocated is using a combination of identifying characteristics.
"If the administration doesn't act, Congress will," Mr. Mica said.
Mr. Mineta is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues that racial profiling is an ineffective way to provide airline security.
"It's both over-inclusive and under-inclusive," ACLU legislative counsel Rachel King said. "The overwhelming majority of people who are flying are not terrorists, and it's under-inclusive because you're not going to catch people who don't fit the profile. We have to develop the best security we can and apply it to everybody."
Even as she agreed that random searching was fairest, Diana McIntyre of the Lorton section of Fairfax County, said security personnel still might give extra scrutiny to members of certain ethnic groups.
"Even if your boss says, 'Don't do it,' human nature is going to kick in," said Mrs. McIntyre, waiting at Reagan Airport with her 2-year-old daughter, Willie, for family members to arrive from Chicago.

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