To the editor:
I have a whole collection of columns by light-skinned Christians justifying ethnic profiling against dark-skinned Muslims. They exhibit the same blind spots as your July 30 editorial.
1. They assume profiling is a magic bullet that really works. It doesn't. Studies show profiling wastes police resources:
¢ Ethnic profiles fit way too many people. Terrorists are very few, needles in a haystack. Good police work consists in detailed following of clues, not massive expensive dragnets seeking unspecified people.
¢ Terrorists learn to evade the profiles. They recruit light-skinned operators, they dress like everyone else, they drink alcohol.
2. The editorials ignore the effect on law-abiding Muslims. It's easiest to catch Muslim terrorists when fellow Muslims turn them in. Most American Muslims are willing to do that. That will change if Muslims become a hated minority persecuted by profiling police.
3. The editorials justify unfair treatment of fellow Americans by confusing low-level violence with the apocalypse. While the occupation of Iraq has indeed been violent, a majority of Americans now agree it was stupid and unnecessary. The 9-11 toll was indeed terrible, but as it recedes in time, we begin to notice it was much smaller than a real war or even than a single year's toll of infectious deaths from careless uncleanness in American hospitals.
4. Yet, the real risks are being ignored. Most seriously, we aren't doing what we should to prevent terrorist nuclear attacks. Profiling can't help, but international agreements controlling weaponable isotopes can.