Criminal Justice

Airport Profiling


Screening passengers at airports has emerged over the past decade as a complex practice that is required to ensure the safety of all passengers boarding both domestic and international flights. However, this practice is difficult to manage in many ways because it unnecessarily targets some passengers and not others on the basis of assumptions that are made regarding skin color, clothing, or other characteristics that may lead airport screeners to conduct excessive profiling techniques. With this process, some people are likely to be screened extensively without just cause, while others who might be suspect or from different questionable backgrounds are not screened using the same approach. This is a difficult situation to understand from the perspective of the typical passenger because the manner in which screening and profiling is conducted is not consistent, nor does it provide any greater means of safety and security for passengers. These considerations must be examined more closely to determine how to best move forward in the development of a more effective strategy for passenger profiling that includes potential terrorists.


The Department of Homeland Security, in cooperation with the National Transportation Safety Board, has created a system that encompasses the screening of airport passengers to identify any potential dangerous objects on their person or in their luggage. However, this practice also raises many additional questions regarding how passengers are observed at security checkpoints and whether or not they are chosen for additional screening. In this context, it is likely that there are significant opportunities to expand and improve upon existing screening strategies and methods to screen for potential terrorists. However, this is not without its challenges as the organization faces difficulties in its efforts to identify terrorists and thwart any attempts of damage or destruction.

It is important to identify a strategy that will provide a greater ability to identify and thwart terrorists as effectively as possible. Although profiling is often viewed as a negative practice on the basis that is interferes with personal rights and freedoms, it is nonetheless a necessary process that must be used in order to prevent terrorism. In this context, it is necessary to develop a system that will examine attributes or characteristics that are common to terrorists throughout the world. To protect the safety and security of the general population, it is important to identify the specific factors that contribute to the risks associated with airport security and the passage of terrorists through security checkpoints without incident. There must be a system in place that will allow government officials to profile potential terrorists and question them further and to prevent unnecessary questioning of persons who do not possess these characteristics.

It is also important to identify possible programs that might be used to detain terrorists and prevent them from passing through security checkpoints and boarding airplanes. This may be achieved through the development of new perspectives that will facilitate successful results in airport screening to allow passengers who do not pose any risks to be screened and approved without incident or unnecessary delays. Although terrorists come in all shapes, sizes, and cultures, there are models for terrorist behavior that should be considered when developing improved screening mechanisms for these persons. Their behaviors should serve as the key identifiers of possible terrorism rather than their cultural identifiers. These developments are important because they reflect a means of properly screening persons suspected of terrorism not on the basis of their skin color or heritage. On the other hand, it is necessary to identify behavioral factors and use these in making decisions regarding whether or not to screen potential terrorists more carefully at security checkpoints.

The waste that is incurred by government agencies in screening passengers that are very unlikely to be deemed terrorists must be curbed as best as possible. This may be accomplished through the development of a successful strategic framework that will allow passengers without any type of suspect behaviors, or those who fall under specific age groups, such as the elderly and young children. This will enable members of these groups to be screened quickly and perhaps experience shortened screening procedures versus those persons who might exhibit specific behaviors that would require closer scrutiny. These efforts are important because they provide additional insight into the behaviors of some persons who might be suspected terrorists so that their actions are prevented as best as possible. The concept of trusted traveling might be a feasible alternative to alter the focus of extensive screening towards those persons who require greater scrutiny and take the focus off of those persons who pose no threat to the general public.


It is necessary to improve existing airport screening mechanisms to enable federal officers stationed at airports to focus their efforts more closely on those persons that require heavier scrutiny. If these measures are established, then it is possible for the Department of Homeland Security and the NTSB to obtain a greater level of respect from the general public, and in particular, the traveling public. This is important because those persons who are subject to random or targeted screenings should not always be subject to these screenings. Rather, they should be allowed to pass through without additional scrutiny and examination, with the focus instead on potential terrorists.