The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has ordered "enhanced screening" of air travelers holding passports from 14 countries or who have departed from these countries or traveled through them on their way to the United States after the failed attack to blow up a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas.
"Because effective aviation security must begin beyond our borders, and as a result of extraordinary cooperation from our global aviation partners, TSA is mandating that every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening," the TSA press release stated. "The directive also increases the use of enhanced screening technologies and mandates threat-based and random screening for passengers on U.S. bound international flights."
The New York Times reports countries suspected of terrorist activity have been broken down into two categories: "state sponsors of terrorism"—Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria—and "countries of interest"—Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen.
The paper also reports enhanced screening will no longer automatically apply to United States citizens and international travelers bound for the United States—like they did after the failed attack—unless they have flown through one or more of the 14 countries identified by TSA. These passengers, however, will be chosen at random for the stricter security measures, reports The Daily News.
The Transportation Security Administration notified airline carriers Sunday of the changes for all flights entering the United States -- with an emphasis on a "full body pat-down and physical inspection of property" for all people who are citizens of or are flying through or from nations with significant terrorist activity.
The New York Times reports that full body scanning equipment that can peer underneath clothing and explosive detection technology will be used to screen these travelers when available. The Guardian adds that security officers will also use behavioral detection techniques to spot travelers acting in a suspicious manner.
The measures are the same adopted by the TSA immediately after the botched terrorism attack by 23-year-old jihadist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who smuggled an explosive sewn into his underwear onto Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas. Abdulmutallab's journey originated in Nigeria, where he boarded a plane to Amsterdam, after he was allegedly given explosives training in Yemen by al Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula. Both nations have been put on the government's "countries of interest" list while President Barack Obama has pledged more counterterrorism assistance to Yemen to help the government fight al Qaeda, reports The Washington Times.
As the Guardian notes, most of the countries flagged are predominately Muslim, which has raised concerns among Muslim advocacy groups and civil libertarians.
“I understand there needs to be additional security in light of what was attempted on Christmas Day,” Nawar Shora, the legal director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, told The New York Times. “But this is extreme and very dangerous. All of a sudden people are labeled as being related to terrorism just because of the nation they are from.”
♦ Photo of Saudi passport by jonrawlison/Flickr