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Sensible profiling

Posted by Richard on December 29, 2009

ABC's Nightline actually asked the question Monday night, "Should part of enhanced airport security include profiling passengers of certain countries, races and religions?" I dashed off the following comment: 

Today's terrorists don't all have a common ethnicity or national origin (consider the Taliban soldier John Walker Lindh, an American of European ancestry). But they all share the same religio-political ideology: Islamism.

Islamists embrace a barbaric 7th-century form of Islam and a commitment to the subjugation of the entire world to those beliefs. Not all Muslims are Islamists. But without question, all Islamists are Muslims. And virtually every terrorist is a radicalized young male Muslim.

It's insane and suicidal to ignore this fact and treat Lutheran grandmothers, Catholic schoolboys, atheist professors, and Buddhist businessmen as being just as big a risk.

The trick, of course, is to distinguish moderate, tolerant, peaceful Muslims from the radicalized Islamists, and it's not easy.

But moderate, tolerant, peaceful Muslims more than anyone have a stake in helping the authorities do so, and should welcome increased scrutiny and questioning. Their cooperation will help authorities develop psychological profiles that aid in distinguishing the crazies from those who are no threat.

To continue treating everyone as possessing the same threat potential is just willful blindness. When indulged in by public officials, it's malfeasance and dereliction of duty.

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3 Responses to “Sensible profiling”

  1. Rick Shultz said

    “Sensible profiling” I like that. Ron White had the best comment on that I’ve heard in a

    while. In one of his routines he said “If the guy in front of me in line at the airport needs

    two loads of phlegm to pronounce his name, them I’m checkin’ his shoes for fuses and I

    don’t care who knows it!” :=)

  2. rgcombs said

    Well, that’s worth a chuckle, Rick. But as a rational profiling criterion, it leaves something to be desired. As I noted, it wouldn’t finger John Walker Lindh for scrutiny. And that’s just one example off the top of my head. Strategy Page reported some time ago that al Qaeda had been recruiting “Western-looking” people, and there are now a number of blue-eyed, blond-haired jihadis we need to watch out for.

    No, it’s not race, ethnicity, or hard-to-pronounce surnames that we need to watch for. It’s radical Islamists. That’s harder, of course — you can’t just ask people at the airport security line, “Excuse me, are you a Muslim?” You have to do what the Israelis do: review passenger manifests in advance, and have highly trained people talk to the ones of interest, looking them in the eyes and judging their body language and reactions.

    It’s worked extraordinarily well for them so far. There is no safer airline in the world to fly than El Al. And they don’t make people take off their shoes or submit to full body scans, they don’t target grandmothers with knitting needles, and they don’t put eight-year-old boys through special screening procedures.

  3. Rick Shultz said

    Don’t blow a gasket Richard! I wasn’t suggesting that as a permanent profiling criterion. I’m aware that it wouldn’t work that well.

    It’s situational at best. And I completely agree that appearance is not much help in determining who is and who isn’t a jihadist.

    Actually your answer to me suggests a much better method. Let’s hire Israelis to work in American airports and in those airports

    in Europe and the Middle East that have regular flights into this country. I see nothing wrong with that as Israelis do seem to have better “jihadi sniffers” for lack of a better term than others do. Not surprising really since they’ve had to deal with them a lot

    more than the rest of us and for a longer period of time. Then too, your observation that we’re wasting time and effort on

    grandmothers with knitting needles and 8 year old kids is an astute one, and should be taken to heart by those whose responsibility it is to decide how we spend our resources in this area. Not that I expect that from the current crop of idiots who

    are running DHS, but it would be nice.

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