CAIR Spokeswoman on TSA's New Airport Screening Procedures

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," November 18, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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LAURA INGRAHAM, GUEST HOST: In the "Factor Follow-up" segment tonight: As we've been reporting this week, the TSA is implementing this new, invasive screening procedure and these full-body scans at the airports, and many Americans are just fed up. They're sick and tired of it, including me.

And in a surprising twist, some of the most outspoken complaints are coming from the Muslim community. The Council on American-Islamic Relations is basically telling its followers how to opt-out of some of the screening, and they also want the TSA to give special treatment to some Muslims.

Here to define that special treatment is Zahra Billoo, who is a spokeswoman for CAIR, and she joins us from San Francisco. Ms. Billoo, it's good to have you on. I was looking at some of the CAIR recommendations to travelers across the United States, and here is one of the things they say to the women there. They say, "Well, before you're patted down, if you are a Muslim woman and you are flying, you should remind TSA officers that they are only supposed to pat down the area in question," that means your head and neck. "They should not subject you to full body or partial body pat-down, and you can request to pat down your own scarf and your own head and neck area." That's kind of like a self-exam, right? How -- I mean, how does that work? I'm going to feel myself on my groin. I don't even want to go there but you know what I'm saying, a little odd.

ZAHRA BILLOO, CAIR PROGRAMS AND OUTREACH DIRECTOR: Thanks for having me, Laura. So, I just, you know, I want to say that we have looked at that line and we know that it can be misconstrued as that, like asking for special exemption. We are actually working with the TSA to clarify that, and what, you know, what it essentially is intended to convey is that if you are signaled for secondary screening because of the bulky clothing policy, and that bulky clothing that you are wearing is your headscarf, then the pat-down should be limited to the headscarf. That's TSA policy.

If I'm wearing pants, like everyone else walking through the metal detector, you don't need to pat down my legs. You should pat down my head. And, you know, we recognize that, but at the same time, TSA's own policies allow for individuals to pat their own heads down. And that has…


INGRAHAM: But, Ms. Billoo, I'm talking specifically about the opt-out of the backscatter X-ray, you know, the full-body scan. And you've seen it.

BILLOO: Right.

INGRAHAM: I'm sure you've seen the photos. I mean, I've had people call into my radio show, their children to spread their legs.

BILLOO: People are upset.

INGRAHAM: I mean, it is just a nightmare, OK?

BILLOO: People are very upset about those, and it's not just passengers.

INGRAHAM: Right. My question to you is isn't this kind of what CAIR wanted? I mean, you wanted no one to be profiled, right? Nobody can be profiled, country of origin, background, ethnic. I'm just stating what CAIR -- because I've had a lot of CAIR folks on my show.

BILLOO: No, absolutely.

INGRAHAM: No profiling. And so, now, everyone is basically profiled. Everyone is subjected to these screenings techniques.

BILLOO: And so, that was never our response. Our response was never, you know, let's bring a security state into the airports like let's make it a police state. It was rather that behavioral profiling is what works, and that these scanners don't do that.

And, you know, CAIR isn't the only one objecting to it. You have pilot unions objecting. You have flight attendants unions, doctors, nurses, people are objecting in large scale and that's because these machines are dangerous. They don't make us any safer and they're not an effective form of security.

INGRAHAM: Well, I'm not a fan, as you know.

BILLOO: Right.

INGRAHAM: I'm not going through one of those, the backscatter X-ray machines. I don't trust the radiation level things they say.

BILLOO: Absolutely.

INGRAHAM: I don't think we should add more radiation that we don't have to add.

BILLOO: Right.

INGRAHAM: But, you know, the idea though that members of the Muslim community should be able to pat themselves down, this is a CAIR language. I'm reading from CAIR's own language. I mean, how do you pat yourself down?

BILLOO: That's specific only to the head. Laura, that's specific only to the bulky headwear clothing.

INGRAHAM: Well, why should you be allowed? If I had a bulky headscarf on, I wouldn't be able to pat myself down.

BILLOO: No, no, no, of course. And that's not -- and again, that's not specifically a CAIR line. That's a TSA policy, that when someone goes through…


INGRAHAM: Well, it's a stupid policy.

BILLOO: …they are permitted to pat your head down. And they watch you do it and then they swab your hands.

INGRAHAM: Well, OK, I have a question. This is going to seem really odd. When you go through screening and you are in your full hijab and your, you know, your robe -- I'm not sure what you call the thing around your neck. But you're going through TSA.

BILLOO: Right.

INGRAHAM: Do they make you take -- do you take everything off through the X-ray machine? Or no, they don't make you take it?

BILLOO: I take my shoes off, I take jackets off. I mean, I go through the same process everyone else does. The only thing that stays on is a headscarf.

INGRAHAM: Right. But I'm just asking because I don't know; I've never seen it. Do they make you take your neck covering off? You have to take all of it off, the headscarf off?

BILLOO: No. So, if the neck covering is attached to the headscarf, it stays on. And if that, you know, if that gets me to secondary screening, then I have the right, per TSA's policies, to pat my own head down under their supervision.

INGRAHAM: How about your groin area? Do you get to pat that down?

BILLOO: No. So, all of that remains the same for all passengers. That's not exempt for Muslim passengers vs. other passengers.

INGRAHAM: Right. But that's against Sharia law, I understand.

BILLOO: And that's also problematic.


INGRAHAM: Yes. But it's against Sharia law, right? There's a fatwa out…

BILLOO: No, it's against a personal sense of privacy, Laura. You're not…


INGRAHAM: I agree. I'm with you. I'm on your side on this. I'm with you. I'm on your side, but I don't think…

BILLOO: This isn't making us any safer.

INGRAHAM: …Muslims should get any special treatment. Everybody should be…

BILLOO: Right. And we're not asking for special treatment. We're saying we want effective security.

INGRAHAM: Are you onboard with the fatwa on this, the CAIR edict on this?

BILLOO: The fatwa that I don't want someone seeing my naked body? Absolutely.

INGRAHAM: OK. We appreciate it.

BILLOO: I imagine you would agree on that as well, Laura.

INGRAHAM: I -- believe me, I don't even want to go there, OK? Thank you very much.

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