TSA revises turban search procedures after Sikh criticism of 'religious profiling'

[JURIST] The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) [official website] Tuesday revised security procedures relating to headwear [press release], merging procedures involving headwear with the broader category of bulky clothing. The move came less than a week after the TSA and the Sikh Coalition [advocacy website] held a "community meeting" [press release] in Washington DC to discuss Sikh criticism [JURIST report] of security procedures enacted in August as "disturbingly vague" and likely to lead to "religious profiling." The "bulky clothing" category provides TSA screeners with new options, including using trace detection and pat downs, when dealing with passengers who choose not to remove their headwear for religious, medical, or other reasons. If the headwear, like any other form of bulky clothing, still cannot be cleared through security after those options are exhausted, TSA officials can ask that the item be removed in a private screening area. The new guidelines are effective Oct. 27.

The August revisions specifically included the turban [statement, DOC] - worn by Sikhs as a article of faith [Sikh Coalition backgrounder] - as an example of a type of headwear that could potentially hide non-metallic threat items, and subjected those wearing head coverings to secondary screenings at checkpoints. Earlier TSA guidelines [PDF text] had recognized that "Sikhs view their turbans as an important connection to God that covers a very private and personal part of the body" and "removal of a turban is considered one of the most invasive acts imaginable." AP has more.

 

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