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April 2, 2010

US to discontinue nationality-based 'strip search' pat down security checks at airports

     Washington: The United States is reportedly planning to discontinue its policy of nationality based security checks of America bound travellers and would now select passengers for special scrutiny at airports on possible matches to intelligence information, including physical descriptions or a particular travel pattern. According to senior officials, following immense criticism of the 'discriminate' screening of citizens from 14 specific countries, it has now been decided that passengers would be asked for additional security checks if they match certain pieces of known intelligence. "The system will be much more 'intel-based' as opposed to blunt force," The Washington Post quoted a senior administration official, as saying. It may be noted that after the failed Christmas bombing plot, in which a Nigerian student, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, allegedly tried to ignite explosives sewn into his underwear just before a Detroit bound plane was to touch down, the Obama Administration had ordered a significant increase in secondary searches, requiring all passengers from or travelling through Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Liberia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen to undergo extra security at the airport. Travellers from countries considered state sponsors of terrorism like Cuba, Syria, Iran and Sudan were subjected to the same screening, including pat-downs and additional bag checks at airports before boarding an aircraft to the US. Though the US officials revealed that the work on the new policy was on, it is not being publicised as the members of the Congress are yet to be notified on the issue. They said the new system would 'significantly' reduce the number of passengers chosen for mandatory extra screening, and remove a large number of travellers from the list who had been chosen due to their nationalities. It is worth mentioning here that Pakistan has been vehemently opposing the US' 'strip search' laws The Pakistani leadership, including Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, has appealed to Washington on several occasions to remove Pakistan's name from the list of countries whose citizens have to undergo 'full body screening'.
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