Friday, August 11, 2006

Time to profile terrorists, not grandmas

Examiner editorialized [S]can the many news photos of the long lines of frustrated travelers Thursday, and it is impossible not to notice how few match the typical terrorist profile — natives of or descended from families that came from or still live in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt or another Middle Eastern, Asian or African nation with a Muslim majority or significant Muslim minority.

We recognize that the vast majority of Muslims do not share the Jihadist obsessions with killing Americans, Brits and other Westerners. But there is one undeniable fact about the 1993 World Trace Center bombers, the Sept. 11 murderers, the Madrid bombers, the London subway bombers and the present liquid bomb plotters — all are clearly identifiable as being from Muslim nations. We’ve yet to see bombers who look even remotely like a gray-haired governess from Southampton, a harried middle-aged U.S. sales executive from Los Angeles or a haggard dad and mom with kids in tow returning home to Atlanta.

There is no room left for the blind politically correct procedures that ignore this reality — our enemy is nearly always a young to middle-aged man from a Muslim nation or culture, and it is madness not to focus mainly on those who most readily match the known profile. If preventing another Sept. 11 horror means delaying all travelers from such nations, well, then so be it.

If the police know that the bank robber escaped in a red Ford, they are not profiling red car owners or Ford owners to put out a BOLO (Be On the Look Out) for such a car. Neither are we profiling Muslims when we observe that almost all of the problems have been committed by Young Muslim Males. Don't just focus on them, because they may convince a few Older Muslim Males or some Muslim Females to join in Jihad.
Maybe the resulting inconvenience and discomfort will help induce officials back home to get serious about helping the U.S. and Britain stop terrorists from succeeding in their deadly aims.

CQ blogged Two editorials in Washington newspapers show the difference between serious thinking and silly whining in the aftermath of the bombing plot discovery in Britain yesterday. While the Washington Examiner argues that some profiling should be considered along with the massive inconvenience to all travelers with the new security rules placed in effect yesterday, the Washington Post complains about first-class passengers paying for expedited service.
One interesting facet of terrorism recently has been the rise of the home-grown jihadi. In Canada's Toronto cell and in yesterday's bombing plot, the majority of the suspects had domestic nationality and citizenship. Terrorist organizations have plotted to grow these cells from within for two purposes. First, they want to stymie security procedures they assumed would target Arabs and Muslims, perhaps not realizing the allergic reaction some would have to even the hint of such restrictions. Second, they want to force Western governments to slowly reject Muslims, so that more of them can be radicalized into opposition with the West and recruited into the ranks of the terrorists. We haven't seen much to suggest they have succeeded in any measure on either goal.

However, the Examiner has a point about foreign nationals and heightened security. Currently, the TSA operates under a bizarre rule that restricts them from conducting random searches of more than two passengers on any flight with Arabic surnames. The screeners appear to go out of their way to ensure that a broad spectrum of people get attention for these routine spot-checks, infamously shaking down an octagenarian Medal of Honor winner in one incident. These efforts waste time and resources. We have seen enough of these plots to understand that the consistent profile is that of young Muslim men, and if the authorities would finally acknowledge this as reality and start providing tougher screening for those who meet the profile, the rest of us would complain much less about the security restrictions on everyone else.

Lorie Byrd blogged I agree with this Examiner editorial that it is time to be politically incorrect and start profiling. I believe it is a very useful tool and it doesn't make sense strip searching Jewish grandmas from Miami when looking to prevent terrorist attacks. What I have feared, though, and what certainly must have been considered by terrorists, is that they would be eventually be successful in recruiting those who do not fit the terrorist profile.

It is hard to imagine a young, female, non-Muslim American agreeing to commit suicide and murder thousands of innocent women and children. It is highly unlikely that the jihadists will be very successful recruiting that demographic. It is possible, however, that they will eventually be successful in recruiting some who do not fit the typical profile. It is also possible that someone not fitting the profile could be tricked into unknowingly taking a banned substance on board a plane.

Stephen Bainbridge blogged My concern is that if American Muslims start to experience "flying while Muslim," that will promote precisely the sort of alienation and rage we say in too many European Muslims.
The solution is for the American and European Muslims to help identify radical clerics and people they are convincing to do bad things, so that they can be caught before hand.
Both prudence and principle thus suggest a certain amount of caution before plunging ahead with profiling.

Gun Toting Liberal blogged Terrorists are pretty smart. Do not put it past them to get to “Grandma”. Do not put it past them to kidnap the grandkids and tell “Grandma” that those kids have two more days left to live if “Grandma” doesn’t smuggle a bomb onto a plane; they’ll be freed and unharmed if she does. I don’t know about your “Grandma”, but many “Grandmas” would do anything for their grandchildren, possibly even something so heinous if put into such a horrible position.
I suppose it is possible, but I have not heard of any Grandmas doing it so far, and there have been a LOT of Yound Muslim Males doing it.
And that should just about end any speculation as to whether or not racial profiling is an intelligent answer to helping combat terrorism. It’s just not going to be as simple as that.

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