The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, has said the new security measures outlined by the Transport Security Administration (TSA) unfairly single out a particular religious group and may therefore be illegal.
The TSA has published the new rules in response to the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day that targeted a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. Under the directive, passengers traveling to the United States from 14 countries—most of which are Muslim-majority nations—that are alleged to have ties to international terrorism will be subject to pat-downs in addition to regular security screenings.
Countries selected for this type of treatment include Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Yemen, as well as Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.
According to CAIR, the new guidelines will disproportionately target American Muslims who have family or spiritual ties to the Islamic world.
"While singling out travelers based on religion and national origin may make some people feel safer, it only serves to alienate and stigmatize Muslims and does nothing to improve airline security," said the organization’s national executive director Nihad Awad.
He suggested that focusing on passengers’ behavior rather than appearance, and using more bomb-sniffing dogs and installing sophisticated explosive-detection equipment would be a better way to enhance security.
Another controversy regarding increased security measures stems from the government’s announcement to use full-body scanning technology, which some say is an invasion of privacy.