Homeland Security Official Urges Muslims to Register Before Flying, Sparking Outrage

November 8, 2005

Source: The Journal News


On November 8, 2005 The Journal News reported, "Local Muslims yesterday reacted with sadness and outrage to a Department of Homeland Security official's recent urging that they and Arab-Americans register with the federal government before flying, to reduce the chance their names are flagged as security risks.

Daniel Sutherland, the department's head of civil rights, made the comments at an Oct. 20 seminar on Homeland Security sponsored by the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism.

Sutherland was responding to a question posed by a reporter who wanted to know what options were available to Muslims and Arab-Americans who frequently were targets of additional scrutiny at airports, Valerie Smith, a spokeswoman for the department, said yesterday... [One Muslim who came to the U.S. from Palestine 34 years ago] acknowledged that instances of airport workers confusing Muslims' names with those on the anti-terror lists was an increasing problem, but he attributed it to poor staff training... The two-page Passenger Identity Verification Form asks for personal information, including height, eye and hair color and copies of at least three official forms of identification.

The form has been in use since the TSA was created, Smith said. Homeland Security shares the information with airlines, who then compare it against security lists that might otherwise red-flag a passenger.

Sutherland acknowledged that filling out the form would not completely eliminate the chance that a Muslim traveler would be singled out for closer scrutiny before or after flying."