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August 16, 2006

Reconsidering Our Opposition to Profiling

By Kathleen Parker

In the wake of last week's foiled terrorist plot to blow up 10 U.S. jetliners flying between Britain and the United States, sensible people are reconsidering our government's stubborn opposition to profiling.

Among the sensible elsewhere are officials of the British Department for Transport, who are proposing ethnic profiling as a means of more effectively identifying potential terrorists. The predictable chorus of opposition has chimed in on cue.

The Muslim Council of Britain has warned the government to think "very carefully,'' saying that including "behavioral pattern recognition'' in passenger profiling would lead to discrimination. A spokesman for the council said, "Before some kind of religious profiling is introduced, a case has to be made.'' Challenge accepted.

Most terrorist acts of the past several decades have been perpetrated by Muslim men between the ages of 17 and 40. A complete list would fill this space, but following is a partial Islamic terrorist resume:

Eleven Israeli athletes murdered at the Munich Olympics (1972); U.S. Marine barracks blown up in Beirut (1983), Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacked and elderly, disabled American passenger killed (1985); TWA Flight 847 hijacked (1985); Pan Am Flight 103 bombed (1988); World Trade Center bombed (1993); U.S. embassies bombed in Kenya and Tanzania (1998); USS Cole bombed (2000); Sept. 11, 2001; Madrid and London train bombings (2004 and 2005).

Yet we are torn. Profiling seems both un-American and dangerous in an era of slippery slopes. The paranoid leap is that detention camps are just around the bend. Thus, instead of deciding to closely scrutinize airline passengers who fit the description of a likely perpetrator -- based not on bigotry, but on evidence, history and common sense -- we frisk the elderly and confiscate toddlers' sippy cups.

Critics of profiling insist that focusing on one group will distract us from other possible terrorists -- presumably all those Baptist grandmothers recently converted to Islam. They also invariably point to Timothy McVeigh, our own homegrown terrorist who blew up a federal office building in Oklahoma City. As if one white-bred misfit -- or the occasional Caucasian Muslim -- cancels out 35 years of Middle Eastern terrorists invoking Muhammad.

For a nation that laments its lapse in dot-connecting before 9/11, we are curiously blind when it comes to dealing honestly with certain people of a certain sort. Profiling isn't aimed at demonizing Muslims; it's aimed at saving lives, including Muslims.

We learned from investigators of the foiled London-based plot that Muslims played a key role in busting the conspirators, for which the world is grateful. But the idea that profiling young males of Asian or Middle Eastern descent now would alienate those who heretofore had been helpful, as some have argued, presumes that Muslims have no interest in self-preservation.

Or that they're all so belligerently ethnocentric that they'll cease cooperating if airport security officials suddenly start behaving competently.

Identifying potential terrorists is complicated by their sheer numbers in places like Britain, where between 16,000 and 18,000 Muslims are suspected to be Islamic extremists, according to Britain's MI5 counterterrorism unit. How do you track 15,000 people? You don't.

But we can focus energies and resources where plausible, including at airports where profilers are invited to be polite and discreet. And we can listen to sensible Muslims like Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, general manager of the al-Arabiya news channel, who wrote in the Arab News two years ago what our own officials struggle to say:

"It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims. ... We cannot clear our names unless we own up to the shameful fact that terrorism has become an Islamic enterprise; an almost exclusive monopoly, implemented by Muslim men and women.''

And the West cannot survive if we continue to avert our eyes from the obvious. On the legal questions, profiling has at least one notable defender -- John Banzhaf, the George Washington University public interest law professor best known for taking on tobacco and fast food.

Banzhaf argues that racial profiling is constitutional if done in accordance with U.S. Supreme Court guidelines that ethnicity not be the sole criteria. Other considerations for potential hijackers might be age, gender, behavior or clothing. He also notes that courts have upheld using race/ethnicity to further "compelling state interest," as in considering race for college admissions.

"Obviously, the government's interest in protecting the lives of thousands of citizens from a major terrorist attack is at least as 'compelling' as a better college education," he says.

For the past several years, Banzhaf has been a pain in the neck to the tobacco and fast food industries. Let's hope he proves equally troublesome to the terrorists among us.



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Give me a break already, cavemen can't fly, you know that. This is just more propaganda to get you and your kid's money for the enrichment of a few, and that's all. It's really very simple in context and implementation. Think say, perpetual war. I hope you hold Haliburton long. I'm don't and am not profiting from death and destruction. My gut says not to profit from the deaths of our soldiers or innocent civilians. My porfolio doesn't contain any defense contractor stock plays.

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Well, to be honest, I think the profiling bit can go way too far. I live in a prosperous, lilly white suburb of Birmingham. And if somebody of color comes driving through in a 15-year-old Buick Electra, they better have rakes and shovels sticking out the trunk or be ready for a snap inspection by some of Mountain Brook's finest.

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Well, to be honest, I think the profiling bit can go way too far. I live in a prosperous, lilly white suburb of Birmingham. And if somebody of color comes driving through in a 15-year-old Buick Electra, they better have rakes and shovels sticking out the trunk or be ready for a snap inspection by some of Mountain Brook's finest.


They do the same thing in Illinois. Maybe I should move to B'ham.

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Well, if Muslims don't want to be profiled then all the so called "peaceful" Muslims need to take some friggin' initiative and control the ones that aren't. They've got the power to handle their bad apples in-house, but they don't (that's why I don't trust any of them). Simply denouncing the acts of Muslim extremists is nothing but lip service and there's absolutely no truth or action behind their words.

Muslims want to blow up airplanes and/or commit acts of terror with airplanes. Being worried whether you offend someone or hurt their feelings is going to do nothing but end up getting a lot more innocent people killed because that one Muslim with a new, crafty way of sneaking something onto a plane is going to slip by. And for what? All for the sake of not (in my best Elmer Fudd impersonation) "hutting his feewings."

Wake up, people.

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Ann Coulter has been saying this ever since 9/11: Link


August 16, 2006

Last week, British authorities arrested 24 members of a terrorist cell plotting to blow up about a dozen U.S.-bound planes simultaneously. As a result of those arrests, we learned:

1) Nothing being done by airport security since 9/11 would prevent a bomb from being brought onto an airplane; and

2) This terrorist plot — like all other terrorist plots — was stopped by ethnic profiling.

Last week marked the first official admission that everything government airport screeners have been doing until now is completely pointless — unless you're an airport security guard with a thing for women's undergarments, in which case it's been highly effective.

As we now know, all the ingredients necessary to blow up an airplane can be carried in small liquid containers. Airport security has not even been looking for small liquid containers. Judging from my personal experience, they seem to have been focusing on finding explosive devices inside women's brassieres.

After five years of submissively complying with bag checks, shoe checks and underwire bra checks, Americans have now been informed that the hell we've been going through at the airports (but which the president and members of Congress do not go through because they refuse to fly commercial air) has been a useless Kabuki theater.

The procedures that have wasted millions of hours of time cannot keep the most basic bomb materials off an airplane. This is like locking your windows to prevent burglaries, while leaving the front door wide open.

Airport security has been using metal detectors to confiscate sharp objects that could be turned into make-shift weapons, which could then be used by terrorists to commandeer control of a plane and fly it into a building.

Except the terrorists can't do that because we've seen that trick before.

After 9/11, airline passengers will never allow a half-dozen terrorists to take control of a plane again. Indeed, on 9/11, passengers on Flight 93 prevented terrorists who had already been given control of the plane from flying it into a building after hearing what had happened to the first three hijacked planes.

To pull off a 9/11-style attack now, literally half the passengers on the plane would have to be terrorists. (At least the airport screeners wouldn't have to worry about confiscating a lot of deodorants.)

I think a planeful of Arabs would attract attention — except from people who had recently completed a government training program teaching them not to notice anyone's appearance. Not even a group of liberal Democrats flying off to a Renaissance Weekend would stand for that.

The sole objective of airport security post-9/11 has been to accomplish the impossible — remove all sharp objects from a plane — in order to prevent an attack that won't ever happen again. (OK — well, that and finding out what color of lingerie Ann Coulter prefers.)

The plan seems to be to make flying so unpleasant that terrorists — like the people who write laws about airport security — will refuse to fly commercial air. On that theory, we could also keep terrorists off planes by forcing passengers to undergo root canal surgery before boarding, making them stand on their heads for an hour, or enacting an "all Whoopi Goldberg in-flight movie" policy.

What stopped last week's terrorist attack was ethnic profiling. We don't know the details of the British intelligence work that nabbed the 24 Muslims because The New York Times has not been able to obtain that classified information and publish it on its front page yet. But it is a fact that you could not catch 24 Muslim terrorists by surveilling everyone in Britain equally.

Without the ethnic profiling going on outside of airports, no security procedure currently permissible inside airports would have prevented a terrorist attack that would have left thousands dead.

Airplanes, ports, bridges, subways and shopping malls cannot ever be sanitized against every type of attack that can be dreamed up by fanatics engaged in asymmetrical warfare. We have to target the fanatics themselves. Baby formula doesn't kill people. Islamic fascists kill people.

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