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The Sikh Coalition announced that it has updated the FlyRights phone app that they introduced in April of 2012 to provide a means for flyers who had been racially profiled or otherwise harassed by TSA to file a complaint via phone. The original app only registered complaints with the agency and its parent DHS. The new version now registers the complaint with the traveler’s representatives in Congress.

While TSA continues to deny that they target travelers based on ethnicity, the facts indicate otherwise. There were three scandals involving targeting of Hispanics in Boston, Newark and Honolulu that have been posted here earlier.

The most heinous incident of profiling occurred on September 11. 2011 when an Ohio woman, Shoshana Hebshi, was pulled form a flight mid-route, interrogated and strip searched all because she is of middle-eastern descent. TSA is currently being sued in that case, along with three other strip searches.

What is particularly interesting in the discussions between TSA and the coalition is a potential policy change that would allow passengers to conduct “self-administered pat downs”. If the organization is successful in achieving that concession from TSA, it would indeed be a watershed accomplishment.

Other reports on this story are available from The Hill and CNBC.

Civil rights coalition updates app for TSA complaints

Bart Jansen, USA TODAY – November 26, 2013

The Sikh Coalition is updating its mobile app that allows travelers to report complaints about the Transportation Security Administration from the airport, after participants voiced disappointment with how complaints have been handled.

The coalition led several civil rights groups in creating the FlyRights app in April 2012 because of concerns that TSA officers profiled travelers for their appearance — and Sikhs in particular because of their turbans.

The TSA insists it doesn’t profile travelers. Civil rights complaints are investigated and “immediate action” is taken if substantiated, the agency said.

The original FlyRights app, created in coordination with the TSA, allowed a traveler to submit a complaint at the same time to the coalition and to the TSA for investigation.

After collecting more than 212 complaints, with sometimes disappointing resolutions, the coalition updated the app to forward each complaint to the traveler’s House member and both senators, according to Amardeep Singh, a coalition co-founder.

Shawn Tucker, 26, of Decatur, Ga., used to fly twice a week as a business consultant before joining a mobile advertising firm. He said he routinely received extra screening, which often meant patting down his turban and once resulted in him having to remove it in a separate room, even though he hadn’t set off screening machines.

The TSA issued a statement Monday saying the agency “has zero tolerance for racial profiling and employs multiple checks and balances to ensure unlawful profiling does not occur.”

Singh complained that the Department of Homeland Security’s office for civil rights and civil liberties reported in July that it received only nine complaints against the TSA during the previous fiscal year, including three for alleged profiling. “There’s a big discrepancy there,” Singh said.

The TSA said the DHS counts only complaints filed directly with the department. The TSA’s office of civil rights and liberties investigated 368 claims during fiscal year 2013 of civil rights violations or racial, ethnic or religious profiling, of which 142 came from FlyRights, according to the agency. Since Oct. 1, the TSA has investigated 67 claims, including six from FlyRights.

The TSA said it changed policy in 2007 to allow travelers to wear head coverings, whether religious or not, but they could lead to a self-conducted pat-down. Agency officials have met 140 times in the past year with interest groups to discuss profiling allegations.

The Sikh Coalition will unveil the updated app Tuesday in Washington. Other groups supporting the app include the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, South Asian Americans Leading Together and the American Civil Liberties Union.