Archive for Sunday, August 14, 2005

Profiling only helps terrorists

August 14, 2005


The debate over racial profiling resurfaces after every high-profile terrorist attack, heats up as we search for anything that might stop the madness.

That such talk arises primarily out of fear should give proponents of the tactic pause, but it seldom does. Since the attack on London July 7, I've heard ad nauseam that we are wasting precious resources searching "blue-haired grannies." And a couple of New York City officials have argued for racial profiling.

They're wrong.

If we limit our scrutiny to, say, young Muslim men, we become vulnerable to attack by those who don't fit the profile.

The Intelligence Report, which tracks hate groups in the U.S., recently reported that almost 60 right-wing terrorist plots have been uncovered since 1995, one of which, if it had succeeded, could have killed 30,000 people. Have we forgotten about Timothy McVeigh and John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban"?

Shallow, race-centered thinking probably delayed the apprehension of the Washington, D.C., snipers and a serial killer in Louisiana - because the "profile" said they likely were white men. That profile provided cover for those men, who turned out to be black. Racial profiling makes it easier for terrorists to kill us.

Random searches are effective because they are random. Such searches might not catch a terrorist, but they may act as a deterrent by forcing the "non-Arab looking" terrorist to think twice before trying to board an airplane or transit system because he knows everyone is subject to an exhaustive search.

Racial profiling reinforces warped thinking, such as the belief that law-abiding Muslims can or should control Muslim extremists. That would have been akin to asking the white civil rights worker or Christian in the 1950s why he was not able to convince the Ku Klux Klan to stop lynching blacks.

If you don't search the blue-haired grannies, they become prime terrorist tools. We thought suicide bombers were always young men until a couple of girls in Israel strapped bombs to their chests. And the Times of London recently reported that terrorists might use women and children.

"Terrorists will try to use our actions against us and will adapt their methods (use women or even children)," according to internal Scotland Yard documents, the paper said. "Be aware that there is no specific racial, ethnic, sexual or religious profile for terrorists."

Only solid intelligence can prevent terrorist attacks. That isn't political correctness. That's simple fact.

Issac J. Bailey is a columnist for the Myrtle Beach, S.C., Sun News. His e-mail address is


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