Monday, February 26, 2024
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Travel watchlists overly broad, Senate panel finds

A report released Tuesday by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee found that the watchlists for identifying and tracking travelers who might have connections to terrorists are overly broad.
People entering or traveling within the United States may be screened at airports or ports of entry for 22 reasons. Some reasons come from a terrorist watchlist, but some may not be related to security or are up to the discretion of the screening officer, the report found.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. government took steps to create watch lists and update its screening processes. In the years since, the government has not examined the effectiveness of its practices to try to prevent discrimination or assess the rate at which it happens, the report found.
According to a statement released by the committee, members of the Arab, Muslim and South Asian American communities have reported they are unfairly targeted by screening practices.
The report also found that despite the “necessary and well-intended” post-9/11 efforts to protect the U.S. from security threats, in reality the screening system “is so opaque and complicated, it is difficult for the government to explain, and for American citizens to understand why they have been flagged.”
The committee, led by Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), is calling for the system to be reformed through greater transparency and for people to have improved processes to redress the situation if they were unfairly screened.
“My report examines the current processes for safeguarding our nation against terrorist and other threats at airports and ports of entry, and gives concrete steps to improve these practices and protect the diverse communities in Michigan and across the country who feel like they are unnecessarily subjected to intrusive screenings with no recourse,” Peters said in a statement.
As it stands, individuals who receive additional screening are not told why they were chosen. It limits their ability to advocate for themselves and prevent additional screening from happening again, the report said. Without clarification and help from the government, communities disproportionately selected for additional screening have lost trust in the U.S. government, becoming a multigenerational issue, it found.

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