Saturday, April 14, 2012

TSA investigation: No racial profiling at Honolulu airport

HONOLULU - Racial profiling allegations involving two officers at the Honolulu International Airport were found to be unsubstantiated after an investigation, the U.S Transportation Security Administration said Friday.

The TSA said the agency considers the matter closed.

The investigation began in November after allegations surfaced that screeners at the airport targeted Mexican travelers for extra screening. Two employees claimed that the officers known as "Mexicutioners" targeted Mexican passengers in an attempt to appear productive to their supervisors.

The TSA "determined the available evidence does not substantiate the allegations of racial profiling by two behavior detection officers" at the airport, the agency said in a statement.

The allegations resulted in an immediate investigation into Honolulu airport's behavior detection program, which involves officers who are trained to detect behavior, such as facial expressions, of those who intend to do harm.

A group of 38 civil rights organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union, demanded an independent probe into possible profiling at other airports.

There still should be an independent, third-party audit of TSA's screening practices agency-wide, said Rajdeep Singh, director of law and policy for the Sikh Coalition, which led the effort. "Frankly their internal investigation process, it's internal. There's no independence there," he said. "There is a difference between an internal investigation at one airport and an independent audit of the entire agency."

The allegations prompted U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson to call for a suspension of a program known as Screening of Passengers by Observation Technique, or SPOT. The Mississippi congressman's office could not immediately be reached Friday.

Honolulu airport is also where dozens of employees were fired or suspended last year after an investigation found workers did not screen checked bags for explosives. It was the single largest personnel action for misconduct in the TSA's history.

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