Supposedly "random" searches at airports

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Michelle
Supposedly "random" searches at airports

 

Michelle

I was just chatting on Skype with rabble's publisher, Kim, about her airport experience this morning. She says they're doing these "random searches" these days, where the border guards pat you down through your clothes (but they get pretty close and personal though, feeling between your legs, in your bra straps, make you take your shoes off, etc.).

Anyhow, she was pissed off about it because she says that every time she goes to the US, she gets "randomly selected" for these personal searches. Meanwhile, she's never seen a man in a business suit getting searched.

So she said so to the guard. She pointed out that they never "randomly search" business men, and wondered why that was. Apparently the guard got very defensive about it until Kim invited her to look around and see. Every single person being "randomly searched" was a youngish woman. (They were all blonde too, but I'm sure that was a coincidence. [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img] )

So, I'm just curious whether anyone else has noticed this, that businessmen hardly ever get searched?

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

Will she be writing an article on this? Are the guards male or female?

Sara Mayo

Out of curiosity are the searches being done by women or men?

Supposedly, passengers in the US have a right to a same gender person doing the search:

quote:

Private Screening

Your screening may include a hand-wanding procedure and pat-down inspection. You may request a private area for your personal screening. The private area will either be a separate room or an area out of the view of the general public.

Same-Gender Screening

If you are asked to undergo a personal screening you will be provided a screener of the same gender except in extraordinary circumstances. In some cases you may have to wait for a screener of your gender to conduct the screening. You will be advised if the wait will be more than a few minutes.


[url=http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/customer/customer_service_procedures.shtm]h...

Michelle

Kim says she's had both male and female searchers. But perhaps she didn't request the same gender.

Stargazer

I get "randomly searched" every time I am at the airport entering the US. Which is why I no longer go there. I never really paid attention to who else was getting searched. Now I wish I would have.

Sineed

Last time I flew to my folks' place in Florida, my husband and kids walked right through the security checks. But I set off the metal detector with my bra, and got patted down, and they made a point of summoning a woman guard to do it.

Underwire bras are common enough that I could see a significantly higher proportion of women being searched just because of this.

Noise

I can back up the 'businessman hardly gets searched' part... I fit the profile and I'm 0 searches in some 20 odd flights this year. They are work related and I am dressed the part.

Not sure if I've noticed a trend towards younger women... My co-worker is from Pakistan and named Muhammad (not sure if that spelling is correct) and he gets frequently searched. He's got a small collection of 'this bag was opened and searched' tags.

Sineed

I got searched to and from Florida, so that's two for two flights (I don't fly much).

One of my colleagues, a pharmacist who was born in Egypt, recently quipped that since 911 he loves to fly, as all the extra attention he gets as a Muslim man makes him feel special.

500_Apples

I almost never get searched, and I rarely see other people get searched.

They might just be looking for attitude. If you feel they'll search you, it shows. Their training ought to include spotting nervousness. Just calm down, these are professionals doing their jobs. The only problem I ever have is on the way back into Canada. It always takes five times longer, perhaps because Canadian customs are understaffed.

I've been in and out of the USA around five times this year. I thought the immigration official I interacted with (I moved here earlier this year on a long-term contract) was one of the friendliest government civil servants I've ever encountered in my life.

Personally, I don't see a big deal about needing to pull out my keys and have them go through the scanner. I'd be much more concerned, and am, about the devastating loss of time and productivity from waiting in line at canadian customs.

Stargazer

I never feel nervous, and I never have anything to hide. I don't think people are just getting searched because they are looking nervous. And it's not a matter of pulling the keys out and going through a scanner. That is routine. It is a matter of getting pulled aside and having to take your shoes off, having your luggage pulled apart etc.

Coming into the US from the Grand Cayman Island was a nightmare. It used to be a joke with me when travelling - add an additional half hour for my search to finish.

500_Apples

What's so bad about taking your shoes off, or someone seaching underneath the sweater at the top of your lugagge?

Stargazer

Gee I don't know Apples. What's so bad about cameras on all the streets? What's so bad about retina data cards?

Michelle

What's bad about it is that their "random searches" are not random. Business men don't get searched much. Racial profiling abounds. And if they're targeting young, attractive women more often than business men for pat-down searches, then I think that's an issue.

A business man with a briefcase is much more likely going to have a lot more money for drugs or bombs than Kim has!

500_Apples

quote:


Originally posted by Michelle:
[b]What's bad about it is that their "random searches" are not random. Business men don't get searched much. Racial profiling abounds. And if they're targeting young, attractive women more often than business men for pat-down searches, then I think that's an issue.

A business man with a briefcase is much more likely going to have a lot more money for drugs or bombs than Kim has![/b]


Another thing bothering me about this thread is people who don't know the meaning of random. You don't want random searches, what you want is unbiased searches. For a large process statistics rules, and they may have developed some sensible plan based on dress, behavior et cetera of which they instruct their employees.

The point about attractive women is valid, and merits further investigation.

500_Apples

quote:


Originally posted by Stargazer:
[b]Gee I don't know Apples. What's so bad about cameras on all the streets? What's so bad about retina data cards?[/b]

Digital data is recorded and follows you forever. A search agent would not recognize you if he saw you two hours later. It's a very transient loss of privacy.

Michelle

One thing that I was thinking about this, which is more of a light digression, is about how you can request someone of the same gender to search you. I wonder if gays and lesbians can ask for someone of the OPPOSITE gender to search them?

Or at least, that would be a fun experiment to try with them. Screw with their heads. If you're a man, ask for a woman to do the search because you're gay and you don't feel comfortable with a man patting you down. Or, if you're a woman, ask for a man, same reason. [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]

Tommy_Paine

The gender issue is serious enough, but if [i]we[/i]have noticed the discrepancy, I'm sure potential terrorists have noticed it too.

It's not only an annoyance, it's a security breach.

Aristotleded24

quote:


Originally posted by Michelle:
[b]What's bad about it is that their "random searches" are not random. Business men don't get searched much. Racial profiling abounds. And if they're targeting young, attractive women more often than business men for pat-down searches, then I think that's an issue.[/b]

And yet emergency vehicles heading across the border have been hung up by random searches on vehicle plates. It's ridiculous.

Bacchus

quote:


It is a matter of getting pulled aside and having to take your shoes off,

And every U.S. airport Ive been to in the last 2 years (LAX, NY, newark, Chicago, Minneapolis, San fran, San jose, detroit, buffalo, denver, philly, allentown, miami, boston and charlestown) everyone has had to take off their shoes and run them through the scanner, no exceptions. every flight, every person, etc. But in all the traveling Ive done since 911 Ive only had a random search once at a land crossing (6am detroit) and once in a airport (Toronto)

Summer

Racial profiling I could buy, but searching attractive women? Anecdotal evidence makes for interesting stories, but is hardly compelling. I don't think this could qualify as a "security breach". From what I've read, border agents are trained to be alert to nerves and anxiety. If a person has been searched in the past and is worried she might be searched again, the guards could easily pick up on this. Also, women's high heels usually have metal in them, so if you don't need to take off your shoes before going through security, they can easily set off the alarm. That said, everytime I have set it off, the border agent simply waves the wand around me, they have never touched me with their hands...

I'm not denying that "random" searches may not be that random, but I'm betting that white men get searched just as often as white women.

Also, Michelle, I know you're trying to be funny, but the hypothetical male security guard who is going to take advantage of a frightened female traveller, will do so regardless of her orientation. I'm not sure why a gay women would prefer to be searched by a man.

Maysie Maysie's picture

I just heard about this story and it fits with the thread topic.

quote:

BOSTON - The top official in charge of fighting racial profiling for the American Civil Liberties Union says he was the victim of profiling at the Boston airport, and he has gone to federal court to challenge a screening technique that relies on suspicious behavior to identify potential terrorists.

(snip)

Downing, who is black and wears a short beard, said in his lawsuit that he was stopped by a state trooper and asked to show identification after he left the gate area and made a phone call in the terminal.

When he declined, Downing said, he was told to leave the airport, but was then stopped again. He was surrounded by four state troopers and told that he was under arrest for failing to produce identification.

Downing, an attorney who serves as national coordinator of the ACLU's Campaign Against Racial Profiling, said after he agreed to show his driver's license, the troopers asked to see his airline ticket. He was then allowed to leave, and no charges were filed against him.

In his lawsuit, Downing alleges the behavioral screening system used at Logan International Airport encourages racial profiling. His lawsuit seeks unspecified damage and a ruling to declare the screening system unconstitutional.

(snip)

Logan officials say race played no role in the decision to question Downing. The first trooper to ask Downing for identification was black, and three of the four officers who arrived later were also black, according to court documents. The first trooper said he became suspicious when he saw Downing watching him.

Airport officials insisted behavior-pattern recognition helps strengthen security and does not involve racial profiling.


I love how they play the "the troopers were Black so it can't be racial profiling" card. [img]rolleyes.gif" border="0[/img]

[url=http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22087842/]Full story at msnbc[/url]

Makwa Makwa's picture

quote:


Originally posted by 500_Apples:
[b]Another thing bothering me about this thread is people who don't know the meaning of random.[/b]

Or perhaps 'people' do know the meaning of 'random,' and may also know that this comment is particulalry condescending. The thing that bothers me about this thread is the presumption by some posters that these border guards have some kind of 'professionalism' that enables them to systematically identify characteristics that would help to identify passengers who demonstrate characteristics that are correlated with probable 'suspicion'.

What, did they do a post graduate degree including a year-long double blind test in behavioural science and criminology? I think not. I think that the majority of them may have attended a seminar by some ex-cop who thinks he has the 'key' to identifying suspicious behaviour by looking for stereotypical ways people glance at the ceiling or some such foolishness. None of these 'methods' have been tested and are never replicated correctly anyway.

I think instead that these border guards are enabled in their intrusive methods as they follow actions based on boredom, laziness, racism, sexism, group pressure or any other stupid reason, and are no more 'professional' than an average variety store clerk. They do however, get to wear a uniform and are empowered to push people around, which I am certain that most of them relish.

500_Apples

quote:


Originally posted by Makwa:
[b]Or perhaps 'people' do know the meaning of 'random,' and may also know that this comment is particulalry condescending. The thing that bothers me about this thread is the presumption by some posters that these border guards have some kind of 'professionalism' that enables them to systematically identify characteristics that would help to identify passengers who demonstrate characteristics that are correlated with probable 'suspicion'.

What, did they do a post graduate degree including a year-long double blind test in behavioural science and criminology? I think not. I think that the majority of them may have attended a seminar by some ex-cop who thinks he has the 'key' to identifying suspicious behaviour by looking for stereotypical ways people glance at the ceiling or some such foolishness. None of these 'methods' have been tested and are never replicated correctly anyway.

I think instead that these border guards are enabled in their intrusive methods as they follow actions based on boredom, laziness, racism, sexism, group pressure or any other stupid reason, and are no more 'professional' than an average variety store clerk. They do however, get to wear a uniform and are empowered to push people around, which I am certain that most of them relish.[/b]


Makwa,

perhaps their training is random [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]

And yes, I do presume law enforcement officials are trained, and that their training is coordinated in part by people with more advanced knowledge of these subjects.

I do think it's important random does not mean bias-free. Call me a stats snob if you wish. But if what you mean is bias-free, say bias-free, not "random".

[ 05 December 2007: Message edited by: 500_Apples ]

Michelle

quote:


Originally posted by bigcitygal:
[b]I love how they play the "the troopers were Black so it can't be racial profiling" card. [img]rolleyes.gif" border="0[/img] [/b]

No kidding. Kind of like how Phyllis Schlafly is a woman, so it can't be sexism. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

Michelle

quote:


Originally posted by Summer:
[b]Also, Michelle, I know you're trying to be funny, but the hypothetical male security guard who is going to take advantage of a frightened female traveller, will do so regardless of her orientation. I'm not sure why a gay women would prefer to be searched by a man.[/b]

Yes, this is true, and I had misgivings about that post after I posted it! Sorry if I offended anyone with it.

But I just felt like the whole idea that they feel like they can reassure everyone that the pat-downs are not sexual by having people of the same gender doing the pat-downs might be based on the assumption that everyone is heterosexual. But you're right - I think even if I were gay, I might be more comfortable with a woman than a man doing it.

Although really, as a woman who has gone to mostly male doctors, and have occasionally been touched by female nurses or technicians, the truth is, I feel just as much discomfort when female strangers have to touch my body as I do with men.

I suppose in order to screw with their heads, you wouldn't have to mention sexual orientation at all. I could just say, "I'm sorry, I don't really feel comfortable with a woman searching me. Could you get a man to do it, please?" [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

quote:


[b]Kind of like how Phyllis Schlafly is a woman, so it can't be sexism. [/b]

Phyllis Schlafly is a WOMAN? [img]eek.gif" border="0[/img] [img]eek.gif" border="0[/img] [img]eek.gif" border="0[/img] [img]eek.gif" border="0[/img] [img]confused.gif" border="0[/img] [img]confused.gif" border="0[/img] [img]confused.gif" border="0[/img]

B.L. Zeebub LLD

Can you specifically request an opposite gender search?

Michelle

quote:


Originally posted by B.L. Zeebub LLD:
[b]Can you specifically request an opposite gender search?[/b]

I don't think so. I was just saying it might be fun to try, in order to screw with their heads. [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]

Michelle

quote:


Originally posted by Ken Burch:
[b]Phyllis Schlafly is a WOMAN? [img]eek.gif" border="0[/img] [img]eek.gif" border="0[/img] [img]eek.gif" border="0[/img] [img]eek.gif" border="0[/img] [img]confused.gif" border="0[/img] [img]confused.gif" border="0[/img] [img]confused.gif" border="0[/img] [/b]

No. She's a lady.

Aristotleded24

In regards to random searches, here's what I saw happen a few years ago.

I (a white male, just so there's no confusion) was riding a train from Montreal to Quebec a few years back. Directly across the aisle from me were two young Japanese women. I heard an announcement over the PA to be prepared to show ID, so I pulled out my driver's licence. The attendant didn't seem to interested in me, but she did ID the 2 Japanese women.

B.L. Zeebub LLD

quote:


Originally posted by Michelle:
[b]

I don't think so. I was just saying it might be fun to try, in order to screw with their heads. [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img] [/b]


I missed your post entirely. I was trying to make the same funny.....

I'm sooooo derivative...
[img]frown.gif" border="0[/img]

Indiana Jones

Just saw this thread now...

Now, I don't really consider myself a "businessman" but I definitely travel a fair bit on business and sometimes wear a suit or at least a jacket and carry my laptop and all that and I get patted down every single time. I don't know if it varies by airport or what but when I go to the States, I usually fly out of Buffalo and everyone has to take their shoes off and anyone who sets of the metal detector (my belt or cufflinks usually do it) gets patted down. I also have to take out my laptop and cell phone, turn them on, turn them off, etc.

Apparently, people who travel frequently on business can apply to get some sort of special pass that uses a retina scan that lets them bybass security.

On another note, I have a friend who works for one of the big management consulting firms. He's been working on a long-term project that requires him to fly to Washington almost every week to work on some government project. One of his colleagues was born in Iran, moved to England and has an engineering degree. This combination of personal chraracteristics and where he's going apparently goes through some sort of algorithim that assigns values to different variables and his profile comes up as being the most likely combination of attributes to be a terrorist. Even though he takes the same flight almost every week, apparently not a time goes by when he isn't taken aside into a little room and questioned. The company just budgets it into his time, has him leave for the airport early and counts it in his billable hours.