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‘You may be strip searched’: Pakistani cricketer shares boarding pass for USA flight with ‘SSSS’ stamped on it. Read what it means

"SSSS" stands for Secondary Security Screening Selection or Secondary Security Screening Selectee, an airport security measure adopted in the United States which entails subjecting select passengers for additional inspection.

Pakistani cricketer Umar Akmal recently took to Twitter to share pictures of himself and his boarding pass of his flight to the United States. Akmal said he is travelling to the United States for some personal meetings and urged his supporters to pray for his success.

“I am travelling to the US for some personal meetings if all goes well I might have to stay there for some time! I need my supporters to pray for me as they have always prayed!” Akmal tweeted along with the pictures.

However, soon after he posted the picture of the boarding pass on Twitter, a social media user noticed Akmal’s boarding pass had “SSSS” printed on them. “You have been marked for extra screening on arrival and you gotta be there for a couple of hours at least—hope that went well,” the user tweeted.

Social Media users react to “SSSS” symbol stamped on Umar Akmal’s boarding pass

After it was found that Umar Akmal is going to be subjected to additional security checks in the United States, a raft of social media users reacted to his tweet, asserting that it might be par for course for Pakistanis to go through a thorough security check while visiting the US.

Another social media user said perhaps Pakistan PM Imran Khan did not travel to the United States to attend the UNGA assembly in person because he too dreaded being subjected to the secondary security checks at the New York airport.

Yet another Twitter user said Akmal will be strip-searched in the United States.

A Twitter user advised Umar Akmal to wear his undergarments stating that the history of the New York airport is not good.

What does “SSSS” on boarding pass means and what causes it?

“SSSS” stands for Secondary Security Screening Selection or Secondary Security Screening Selectee, an airport security measure adopted in the United States which entails subjecting select passengers for additional inspection. Passengers who have been selected for secondary screening will have the letters “SSSS” printed on their boarding passes as a signal for the need for a thorough check-up at security checkpoints at the airport. While the list of those included on SSSS keeps on fluctuating, it is widely regarded that people from certain countries are included in the list by default.

There’s a variety of reasons that could land passengers on the SSSS list. According to an article, one of the reasons why passengers could be selected for additional security checks is because of their unusual or peculiar itinerary, which could include flights booked last minute, international one-way tickets, travel originating in “high-risk” countries, etc. With Pakistan having close ties with most of the Islamic terror outfits, it is entirely possible that they are listed among “high-risk” countries by the United States. Other reasons also include booking one-way tickets, tickets bought in cash, having a criminal record from the past, being charged with security-related offence at an airport, or have carried prohibited materials or weapons in the past.

The article further states there could also be some sort of list based on flying patterns, specific names or other reasons for which some people find their boarding pass stamped with “SSSS”. Sometimes, it is completely random. However, neither the Transportation Security Administration(TSA) nor the airlines publish the criteria that are used when boarding passes are issued to identify passengers who will be given extra screening or be denied boarding.

What happens at the airport if one is marked for the U.S. secondary screening?

Once the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) official finds “SSSS” marked on a boarding pass, he would ask the passenger to get out of the line and escort him for secondary screening. It usually takes 10 to 30 minutes for additional screening based on the compliance and readiness of the passenger to undergo it.

Passengers with an “SSSS” stamp are normally asked to walk through the metal detector, and then back again. They will be asked to remove their shoes and belts. They will also be asked to go through the full-body scanner. After that, they are subjected to a full-body pat-down, which the passengers can choose to have in private. This is where suspicious passengers are strip-searched by the authorities.

Besides, the luggage carried by such passengers is also checked thoroughly. They are scanned a couple of times in the scanner and based on the discretion of the officer-in-charge of the search, passengers may also have to open their bags and show things as needed.

Those who are carrying electronic devices with them such as phones, laptops, watches are usually asked to power up all of them after which the TSA agents check for any incriminating evidence in them.

Then, there is an explosives and narcotics contact scan as well, which includes rubbing a cotton/fabric/paper swab on the passengers’ clothes, luggage, belt, shoes and other belongings and scanning it under an ION scanner to detect contact with narcotics or explosive materials.

At last, a sticker would be pasted on the boarding pass by the TSA officer or security official, indicating that the additional security check of the passenger has been completed. Once the security authorities are satisfied with their inspection and find nothing wrong, passengers are allowed to leave the security area.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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