Posted by: Singh Is King | Thursday, September 13, 2007

Report on TSA meeting with Sikhs about our turbans.

Meeting at 10:00AM September 10, 2007 included a number of Sikh and Muslim leaders. Organizations represented SALDEF, Sikh Dharma, Sikh Federation, United Sikhs, and others. The TSA had numerous representatives from operations and training and the meeting was chaired by the TSA’s Office of Civil Rights and Liberties. Date: September 10, 2007 Meeting
RE: Meeting to address recent change in TSA policy regarding turbans.

● TSA apologized for not consulting with the Sikh community at large before issuing the changes in procedure.
● TSA issued new S.O.P.s (Standard Operating Procedures) July 19th that went into effect August 4th.
● TSA recognizes they erred in specifically targeting turbans and in not requiring screeners to offer a private area for turban (or hajib) removal and search.
● TSA stated they will immediately:

1. reissue the posters explaining Sikhs and Sikh Turbans to all offices.
2. make the film “On Common Ground” required in training for all screeners.
3. amend the S.O.P. to recognize and be sensitive to the difference between hats and religious head coverings.
4. through additional training, make the screeners more familiar with turbans, what they are made of, and why they carry the shape they are do.
5. investigate any incidents reported them involving unfair or humiliating treatment by their officers.

● TSA will continue to use “the totality of the situation” to choose individuals for secondary screenings (pat downs). This includes but is not limited to the wearing “voluminous clothing” or any clothes that hide the “natural curves of the body” This is why coats are removed and people wearing excessively baggy clothing are chosen for pat downs also. Turbans are not, in and of themselves, a reason for secondary screenings nor will all turbans be patted down asked to be removed. But, this is the primary reason given for the need to pat down and/or unwrap turbans. Travelers at security points using the puffer stations, where air samples from around your body are analyzed, will not be subject to the pat down searches as these devices fulfill the same need. These devices are very expensive and available at only a handful of large airports.

● In general, the procedural changes were made to more effectively search for I.E.D.s (Improvised Explosive Devices). These devices are concealed in whole or in parts under clothing and are non-metallic and thus don’t set off metal detectors. They cited a Russian airliner brought down by two women wearing IED’s concealed by false pregnancy padding.

●The TSA is looking for witnesses to the well publicized search of a Sikh man in San Francisco. As of this morning the San Francisco office has not had an official report by the person quoted in the newspapers, any TSA employees, nor any witnesses. They are reviewing the security videos to try and track down the event.

The TSA has promised a letter formalizing this discussion and commitments made in the next few days. We should be prepared to add our opinion to this response.


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