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The case for profiling terrorists

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Posted: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 12:00 am

The systemic failure to coordinate counter-terrorist intelligence, so painfully obvious in the luckily thwarted Christmas bombing plot, has strengthened the case for profiling terrorist suspects. It’s one issue that might partially placate a polarized electorate.

For years the politically correct notion that we must treat everyone, including toddlers and crippled great grandmothers, as equally probable terrorist suspects has burdened our airport security program with needless inconvenience, inefficiency and expense. To anyone with a triple-digit IQ, it has been a humorless joke.

On this issue, political correctness stems from an irrational ideological belief that profiling is always unwarranted because it is sometimes unwarranted. A classic case of unwarranted profiling occurred at the height of drug-war hysteria. Zealously stopping black motorists for drug searches, New Jersey police fabricated the crime of “driving while black.”

This anti-black profiling was unjustified for two compelling reasons:

• It had no real statistical justification.

• There are no catastrophic consequences for failure to stop a drug deal or two.

In stark contrast with racist drug-dealer profiling, terrorist profiling is readily justified. Statistically, it is almost certain that anyone attempting to blow up a U.S. jetliner will be a jihadist. The odds that an aspiring terrorist bomber is a young Muslim ranges from, say, 20 to 1 to 100 to 1. That being so, it is ridiculous to treat young male Muslims like everyone else. If profiling makes Muslims generally unhappy, let them play a more active role than their generally passive role opposing their fanatical co-religionists.

Intensified scrutiny of young Muslim males is also justified by the consequences of failure to detect jihadists. Suppose security is pursued overzealously, and some innocent persons are denied flight privileges. Compared with a failure caused by lax security, the consequences of overzealous anti-Muslim security are trivial.

Politically correct security policy is currently alienating much of the U.S. public. As an 84-year-old World War II vet, I have endured two years of delayed airline boardings because of my evident inclusion on the watch list. Transportation Security Administration bureaucrats refuse to tell me how I got on the list, and even if I’m still on it. I’m outraged that Abdulmutallab was treated more leniently than I, and I have no sympathy for the stupid U.S. bureaucrat who said “there was insufficient derogatory information available” to warrant Abdulmutallab’s inclusion on the no-fly list. This after his father warned the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria about his son’s radicalization!

President Obama can prove that he gets it by rectifying this admitted failure. “The system should have been lighting up like a Christmas tree,” said a former counter-terrorist agent quoted by Newsweek. A few head rollings could serve as warnings to the bureaucrats that we’re not only mad as hell, but we’re not going to take it any more.


C.W. Griffin has lived in Ahwatukee Foothills since 1988. He is a retired consulting engineer and a published author.

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