News

    Critics Label Obama’s New Security Moves '‘Unfair’'

    Multimedia

    Audio
    • VOA's International Press Club - Airline Security Regulations 07jan10

    Experts from some so-called “terror-prone” nations targeted by new, more stringent airline safety regulations are speaking out against them.  They say the U.S. response to the failed Christmas Day bombing attempt has unfairly targeted innocent people.

    “The news has not been well-received by people in the 14 designated countries – including my own,” said former Pakistani journalist and diplomat Akbar Ahmed.

    Ahmed, who currently serves as chair of the Islamic Studies department at the American University in Washington, said the frustration is understandable.  “The majority of people in those countries are law-abiding people, and they do not see themselves as either terrorists or aligned with terrorists. In fact, many of them see themselves as victims of terrorists,” he added.

    The new regulations issued by the U.S. agency in charge of transportation security require air travelers coming to the United States from 14 nations to undergo extra security screening.  Four countries on the list – Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria – are considered “state sponsors of terrorism” that have repeatedly given support to acts of terrorism.  Ten others – Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Yemen – are seen as “countries of interest,” where air travel is deemed to be at greater risk from terrorists who target U.S. citizens and interests.

    Ahmed said he understands the need for administrators to be very sensitive to security.  “But I also have experience in the field and know that many of these measures are simply irritants to people and they do not make us safer.  What they do is make people angry, and they are ultimately self-defeating,” he noted.

    Personal Experiences

    Ahmed’s arguments are also personal.  He recalls when he and a friend, UCLA Professor Judea Pearl, were traveling together to a conference to promote Jewish-Muslim understanding.  Ahmed assumes it is his name that regularly sets off alarm bells for airport security.  “Ahmed, Mohammed – all these names are related and in Islam maybe 20 to 30 percent of the males have some kind of variation of those names because it means that they are related to the Prophet of Islam.  And when security officers see the name, they begin to be suspicious,” he explains.

    Prejudice and Profiling

    That sort of broad “profiling” can produce charges of prejudice.   Like his colleague, Ahmed is proud of both his heritage and his legacy to the next generation. Ahmed’s daughter, Amineh Ahmed Hoti, is director of the Centre for Jewish-Muslim Relations at the University of Cambridge.  In 2002, Pearl’s son, journalist Daniel Pearl, was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by his al-Qaida captors in Karachi.

    Likewise, Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad has been the victim of profiling by airport security.  “I myself have had a problem of not being able to get my boarding pass on-line or even at the airport kiosk but have to go through an agent,” he said. A Palestinian-American, Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad is president of the Minaret of Freedom Institute and teaches at the University of Maryland.

    “The American government is trying to take a blanket approach to the perception of an increased risk from people who come – or are in transit – from those 14 countries and does not distinguish among them,” said Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad .  “When you look at the actual cases where people have tried to hijack flights,” he said, “We cannot say that it is an effective, efficient, or even moral means of deciding whom to closely examine – to base it simply on their country of origin.”

    Instead, Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad says intelligence experts should instead pay closer attention to the sources of information that allows them to put people on watch lists.  “Searches should be selective and based on at least reasonable suspicion, if not probable cause.”  “Too many people appear on the watch-list and are considered terrorist suspects because their names have appeared on “Islamophobic websites,” he added.

    Balancing Security and Respect

    For someone who campaigned on a promise of restoring respect for human rights and shifting away from the Bush-era “war on terror,” President Obama is finding the struggle between security and freedom as difficult as did is predecessor.

    “People in the Arab world see the new regulations on airline security as contrary to the message President Obama delivered in Cairo to the Muslim world – urging more openness, building new bridges, and promoting greater respect for Islam. And that is sad,” said Nadia Bilbassy, senior correspondent with the Middle East Broadcasting Center.

    “Security is paramount for everybody – Americans, non-Americans, Muslims, and non-Muslims,” Bilbassy said.  “You need to have a delicate balance of trying to track down extremist elements without jeopardizing or alienating more people,” she urged.

    Foreign Policy Considerations

    “I’m not sure how all this will end,” said Akbar Ahmed of the American University. “I do know that in Pakistan already there are suggestions that Americans should be subject to this same procedure when they come to Pakistan.”  There are newspaper reports that Americans are being denied visas,” he added.

    “All of this is moving in a direction that makes me very unhappy because Pakistan and America are supposed to be close allies,” Ahmed lamented.  “The primary question is the efficiency of human intelligence,” he stressed, “and I think that’s what needs to be strengthened.”

    Correcting a Systemic Failure

    Speaking to the nation [7 January], President Obama said U.S. agencies had failed to “connect and understand” intelligence that could have kept the alleged bomber off the plane from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day.

    Mr. Obama announced a series of changes in intelligence and security procedures to guard against future terrorist plots.  Among them are quicker and wider distribution of intelligence reports, new procedures for devising terror watch lists, and revising the “No Fly” list.

    The President also instructed the State Department to review its visa policy to make it more difficult for people with connections to terrorism to receive U.S. visas as well as making it simpler to revoke visas when questions arise.

     

     

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora