Enhanced Airport Security Measures to Affect Travelers to and from Iran

Enhanced Airport Security Measures to Affect Travelers to and from Iran

January 5th, 2010, Washington DC – Starting on Monday January 4th, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has implemented new enhanced security screening measures for individuals traveling to the United States from or through 14 chosen countries, including Iran.

The list of fourteen countries includes those that are on the State Department’s list of State Sponsors of terrorism, as well as other “countries of interest.” It was compiled with extensive help from the State Department following the December 25th incident in which a Nigerian man attempted to detonate an explosive device aboard a U.S. bound flight from the Netherlands. According to a State Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the 14 nations on the list are ones where the U.S. “has concerns, particularly about Al-Qaeda affiliates.”

Media reports indicate that the new security measures will likely include full-body pat-downs, checking of carry-on luggage, and possibly being subjected to fully-body scanning and explosive detection technology.  It has also been reported that U.S. Citizens and most other passengers not flying through the 14 designated nations will not be subject to the new screening measures. 

The list of designated countries, which includes Cuba, Sudan, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Yemen, has already come under scrutiny from civil rights groups claiming that such practices constitute racial profiling.  “The danger with nationality-based profiling is that it sweeps up vast numbers of innocent people, may alienate those we need to have on our side if we are to reduce Al-Qaeda recruitment, and takes our eyes off folks, like Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui, who are citizens of other countries that don’t fit the profile,” said Georgetown University law professor David Cole in an interview with the Washington Post.   

Meanwhile, officials at the TSA have indicated that a majority of all other U.S.-bound travelers will also face threat-based and random enhanced screenings. “TSA does not profile. As is always the case, TSA security measures are based on threat, not ethnic or religious background,” spokesman Kristin Lee said.   The recent TSA directive does not have a set expiration date.

The Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian of Americans (PAAIA) commends law enforcement authorities immediate response to the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 and strongly believes that our Government should take appropriate measures to enhance the protection of our citizenry and other travelers. However, all necessary and security directives that are strictly based on an individual’s nationality raise potential concerns that innocent individuals, including Iranian Americans and their family and friends, may be adversely and unnecessarily impacted. 

The details of the new security directive have not been made public and are still unclear. As such, PAAIA is working together with other organizations in determining the full extent of the directive and to formulate appropriate political and legal responses on behalf of the Iranian American community.

If you, or a family member, are subject to any of these new screening methods, it is important that you send us an account of that experience to info@ In doing so, you will allow us to be better informed about the ramifications of the new directive for Iranian Americans and take appropriate action in working with the Administration to ensure national security while maintaining civil liberties.

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