Racial Profiling In The Air

Champion Rower Aquil Abdullah CBS

On most mornings you'll find him on the water in Princeton, New Jersey, training for the Olympics.

But when he goes to the airport, as often as not, he's stopped – dead in the water, reports CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger.

"I don't even get to check in. As soon as they look at my name, my ID comes up, my seat can not be assigned and my bags can't be checked," the champion rower said.

He knows what the problem is. It's not hard to figure out – once he introduces himself.

His name is Aquil Abdullah.

Aquil Abdullah thinks his name is on a list somewhere of suspect people.

"I suspect that my whole name meets the profile," he said.

In fact Aquil Abdullah is a well-known name. He was the first African-American to win Britain's Henley regatta, one of the most prestigious rowing events in the world. He's used to being admired – and suspected.

"I remember when I was younger and I would go into department stores with a group of my friends, African-American friends, and we would be followed around," he said.

These days though, the hassle is tougher to get used to. He missed one flight and almost missed another.

"I oscillate between thinking this is a good thing we have going on for security purposes and feeling that this is a horrible thing that we have."

The Transportation Security Administration, which is in charge of airport security refused to talk about Abdullah's problem, but is expected to refine its profiling system.

"It is important that we get a better profiling system that doesn't discriminate," said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., who oversees the TSA. "Then we can go after folks who pose a threat."

Schlesinger wanted to know, "Is it possible that you belong to any Islamist organization that they may have on the watch list? "

Said Aquil, "Well, the problem there is that I'm actually Catholic."

His father's Muslim but he's not. So if the government is looking for Islamic radicals, Aquil Abdullah says he's neither.

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