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Racial profiling at airports? Here’s an app for that

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WASHINGTON — Travelers who suspect they are victims of profiling by security screeners at US airports can now lodge a complaint in minutes, thanks to a smartphone application released on Monday.

The Sikh Coalition, supported by African American, Latino and Muslim civil rights groups, said its FlyRights app can be used by anyone who feels their rights were violated at the security barrier.

“For too long, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has kept a long leash on its screeners, telling them not to profile, but taking no effective measures to stop it,” said its director of programs Amardeep Singh.

“Until that happens, we call on the public to hold the TSA accountable by downloading the FlyRights app and filing reports when appropriate.”

According to Department of Homeland Security data, only 11 official complaints of improper TSA screening were filed in the first half of 2011 through a bureaucratic process most travelers know nothing about.

The Sikh Coalition, which speaks for the 500,000-strong Sikh American community, expects that figure to grow “exponentially” once FlyRights — a free download for iPhone and Android — is widely distributed.

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With their turbans and beards, both expressions of their faith, Sikh Americans often found themselves mistaken for Arabs in the emotional aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001.

Many Muslim Americans, including women who wear the hijab, say they too have been singled out for additional TSA searches for no apparent reason other than the way they look and dress.

“It is known that profiling is not an effective means of law enforcement,” said Gadeir Abbas of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“When we profile, we not only stigmatize the minority community, but we also do our concerns about safety a disservice.”

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In a sign of the app’s potential scope, Singh said the very first person to use it Monday alleged she encountered gender discrimination on her way to an early-morning flight.

Building on the TSA’s own complaint process, FlyRights users can specify whether they have been wrongly treated by a TSA security officer on the basis of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, nationality or disability.

It goes on to ask for flight and incident details, before the user hits a blue button and sends the complaint directly to the civil rights offices of both the TSA and Homeland Security. The Sikh Coalition gets an optional copy.

The app’s key advantage, he said, is that travelers can fire off a complaint within minutes of an incident — rather than several hours later, once they find a computer at their destination.

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In an email to AFP, the TSA — which screens two million passengers a day at more than 450 airports — denied it uses profiling. It also appeared to dispute the need for the app, saying travellers should complain directly to it.

“TSA does not profile passengers on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion,” TSA spokesman Kawika Riley said.

“We encourage any traveler with a concern about potential discrimination to contact TSA directly through our numerous channels of communication.”

Prabhjit Singh, a Washington-based motivational speaker who travels extensively, alleged that he has been profiled around 30 times by TSA staff since February 2007.

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The first time, he told AFP, he was ordered to submit to a pat-down of his deep-blue turban at Baltimore’s BWI airport despite passing without incident through a metal detector.

In time, he said, he discovered the TSA had issued a directive calling for pat-downs of anyone wearing a turban, yarmulke or cowboy hat — “and there really isn’t any space (in a turban) to put anything.”

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Lindsey Graham shoves Trump toward war: ‘Anyone would believe we’re one step closer’

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President Donald Trump seemed to try and deescalate the situation between Iran and the U.S. in wake of the former shooting down an American drone. But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) seems to be shoving the president toward war.

"I think anybody would believe that we’re one step closer" [to war], Graham told the press in the hallways of Congress Thursday. "They shot down an American asset, well within international waters -- trying to assess the situation. What are you supposed to do?"

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Fireworks erupt at latest Mueller hearing as chairman Jerry Nadler schools GOP’s Jim Jordan

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A feisty Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) schooled Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) for blatantly misstating facts about the investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election.

After Jordan went on a lengthy diatribe against the FBI for supposedly relying on the Steele dossier to launch an investigation against the Trump campaign, Nadler jumped in to formally correct the record.

"It is well established that the investigation was not predicated on the Steele dossier, but rather on the observation of..." Nadler began.

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Trump emphatically explains that unmanned drones don’t have people in them as he rambles about Iran’s big ‘mistake’

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During a joint press availability with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Donald Trump opened up about the drone that was shot down by Iran.

According to Trump, drones are unmanned, a fact he felt was important to convey to those who haven't seen a Jason Bourne film or a spy thriller.

"Iran made a big mistake," Trump said. "This drone was in international waters clearly. We have it all documented. It’s documented scientifically, not just words. They made a big mistake."

He also said that he doesn't believe the decision to shoot the drone down likely came from the Iranian government in Tehran.

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