By Keith Laing
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers in Newark, N.J., racially profiled Mexican passengers at Newark's Liberty International Airport, the Newark Star-Ledger reported this week.
The paper said it obtained a TSA report on its investigation into the matter, in which a group of airport security screeners charged with identifying nervous or jittery passengers allegedly focused entirely on Mexican or Dominican travelers. The officers, known officially as behavior detection officers (BDOs), were known by airport colleagues as "Mexican hunters," the paper said the report revealed.
"It became a joke in the unit, these individuals were called the great Mexican hunters," the paper said Newark BDO Paul Animone told investigators working on the report.
The paper said the report was dated Jan. 25, 2010, so the alleged profiling occurred over a year and a half ago.
A spokesman for TSA told The Hill that the agency did not condone racial profiling.
“TSA does not profile passengers on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion,” TSA spokesman Nicholas Kimball said in a written statement. “The Screening of Passengers by Observation Technique program was specifically designed to use behavioral criteria indicative of an individual possibly engaged in criminal and/or terrorist activity — race, ethnicity or religion are not considered.”
Kimball acknowledged that TSA policies appeared to have been “overstepped,” but he said the situation was dealt with quickly.
“Eighteen months ago, TSA took immediate remedial action and retrained the entire behavior detection workforce at Newark,” he said. “The manager in question is no longer in management with TSA.”