Efforts to combat terrorism have been met with both compliance and conversely outrage and antagonism as more and more American citizens are being harassed by the TSA. While some Americans recognize that this is a necessary evil to combat terrorism, others see these searches, detentions and major inconveniences as more of a problem than they are worth. This is the exact scenario Nicholas George has faced and has been forced to deal with. In 2009, Mr. George was detained and questioned for having Arabic on a set of flashcards…That was not a typo. FLASHCARDS. The TSA believed it was salient to detain and interrogate Mr. George after he went through a stop with these Arabic flashcards on his person. While the majority of them were ordinary every day conversational phrases, some that read “bomb” and “terrorist,” as well as other possible inciting phrases, sparked suspicion and warranted a five hour detention of Mr. George. While the nature of the questions are not fully evident, some have been shown to conflate Arabic with terrorism because the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2011 perpetrated by Osama Bin Laden and other Arabic speaking terrorists.
After questioning was ended by the TSA, Mr. George was paraded through the airport in handcuffs and brought to a more secure area where two FBI Agents questioned Mr. George for thirty minutes and recognized he was no threat to America, or the airport for that matter. Mr. George claimed that he was studying Arabic in preparation for an abroad trip to Egypt and other countries in the middle-eastern region, but as of late he has no affiliation with any Pro-Islamic or Pro-terrorist communities. In fact, his pictures indicate that he can identify more with White Anglo-Saxon Protestant individuals, as he is a White American.
As a result of the TSA and FBI’s harassment Mr. George, instituted a law suit against the governmental organizations for violations of the Fourth Amendment, which proscribes unreasonable search and seizures. The federal case is long and drawn out, rehashing the reasonable suspicion required for stop and first, the probable cause necessary to conduct a more intrusive search, and the allowance of administrative searches by the TSA. The federal court eventually recognizes that the TSA enjoys qualified immunity to such searches and how this search was akin to an administrative search and eventually granted the motion to dismiss.
While Mr. George did lose this case in December of 2013, I am sure that this case will (or at least should) be brought up to higher courts to actually discuss these issues with the TSA and their searches. The almost unfettered discretion that the TSA has enjoyed for the past thirteen years must end and us, as Americans, need to stop living in fear. This is a ghastly remnant of racism and Islamaphobia that the US must get past and by failing to do so, we will deny good people from gaining access to this country or pursuing their goals in life. Furthermore, we will continue perpetuate fear and make the next generations believe that all Muslims (or for that matter anyone who associates with Islam, Arabi culture, and even the Arabic language) are dangerous terrorist looking to destroy America; when in truth the majority of these people present no danger to the USA and are just trying to live their lives the best way they see fit.
How do you feel about profiling? Is it right for the TSA to have such discretion under the guise of anti-terrorism? How can the USA fight terrorism without targeting a specific race, religion or language for that matter (since we do know that terrorism comes from people from all types of backgrounds and countries)?