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Airport screening won't be biased, Middle Eastern groups told

Assurances by the Justice Department that a proposed airport screening program to identify potential terrorists would not single out passengers because of their ethnicity were met with cautious optimism by Middle Eastern groups.

The automated profiling system, which the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to implement on Dec. 31, will use computers to scan the travel history and any criminal record of passengers to identify potential terrorists.Middle Eastern groups have raised concerns that the system could unfairly target people of Arab and Muslim origin.

A review conducted by the Justice Department's civil rights division found no reason to believe that the program would discriminate against passengers based on their race, ethnicity, gender or religion. It pointed out, for example, that the screening would not consider a person's name or style of dress.

The review, released Wednesday, also concluded the program would not violate the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches or invade a passenger's privacy.

A spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American Islamic Relations said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the report.

"We hope all of the things that are mentioned in it do get implemented," said Ibrahim Hooper.