Liberty response to increased airport security proposals

04 January 2010

It is right that the foiled Christmas terror attempt on a plane bound for the US should have prompted fresh scrutiny of airport security, but any such examination must learn the lessons of the recent past.

To be effective, any response to terrorism must be proportionate and respectful of the human rights values of dignity, privacy and equal treatment that governments on both sides of the Atlantic have been all too easily tempted to ignore.

Liberty shares the concerns of our American sister organisation the American Civil Liberties Union. The instant introduction of “full body scanners” at airports is an obvious way to show that you are doing something, but where is the evaluation of the effectiveness of this highly costly and intrusive technology in the face of the particular threat? Where are the governmental assurances that electronic strip-searching is to be used in a lawful, proportionate and sensitive manner?

If such intrusive searching is to be employed, it should only be when absolutely necessary, on the basis of rational and non-discriminatory criteria and with the strongest degree of privacy protection possible.

Much can be done to enhance airline security if cost and inconvenience is no object; still more if passengers and professionals from all communities feel united. Whether on the street or at the terminal, suspicious behaviour is a sensible basis for enhanced checking by security professionals; race or religion is not.

Contact: Mairi Clare Rodgers on 020 7378 3656 or 07973831128