Arrest debunks profiling strategy

March 14, 2010


Evil is not a color.

It has no particular religion nor creed, nor style of dress, nor gender nor geographic home. Evil is an equal opportunity employer.

One hopes we learn at least that much from the adventures of Jihad Jane.

That, according to federal prosecutors, is the name Colleen LaRose used when she went online to say how “desperate” she was to do something to help Muslims. That desperation allegedly led her deep into the shadowy world of fundamentalist extremism.

LaRose, prosecutors say, used the Internet to recruit would-be terrorists. She allegedly sought to kill a Swedish artist who had angered Muslims by depicting the Prophet Mohammed with a dog’s body. LaRose is also said to have agreed to marry one of her conspirators. According to the indictment, she wrote that it would be “an honor & great pleasure to die or kill” for her intended.

Seven alleged members of the would-be terror cell have been apprehended in Ireland. That’s in addition to LaRose, who was arrested in Philadelphia in October. She was indicted last week.

Which ought to serve as a rebuke to the guy standing in the airport security line grumbling at how the TSA agent is running his wand over some dewy-eyed grandmother who obviously isn’t a threat.

Even more, it should rebuke pundits like Cal Thomas, Ann Coulter and Kathleen Parker, who, in the wake of Sept. 11, argued for ethnic profiling in airport security. Pat down swarthy, bearded young men with Middle Eastern accents and exotic head gear, they said, and leave the rest of us alone.

Jihad Jane is the reason that’s a dumb idea. She is, according to published reports and photos, 4-foot-11 tall, 105 pounds and 46 years of age, with pale skin, blond hair and blue eyes. She is, literally, a citizen of Main Street, USA, having made her home on that thoroughfare in the Philadelphia suburb of Pennsburg, where she was a caretaker for her boyfriend’s father. Until, that is, she disappeared, along with her boyfriend’s passport, which she allegedly intended to give to her terrorist fiancé.

There are several good arguments against profiling. It’s morally wrong. It’s an abridgement of civil liberties.

But the most compelling of them is embodied by Jihad Jane. Put aside squishy appeals to conscience and principle and deal instead with hard pragmatism. Pragmatism will tell you that to concentrate solely on swarthy Middle Eastern men is to turn a blind eye to everyone else. But as demonstrated by LaRose, by convicted terrorists Richard Reid, Jose Padilla and John Walker Lindh, and any number of others here and abroad, terror comes in both genders and all cultures and shades.

And here, it might be fruitful to recall a point Kathleen Parker made in her 2002 column on profiling. She noted her own profile (“a smallish, middle-aged, Anglo-Saxon, 14th-generation American” woman) and asked pointedly: “when was the last time a U.S. citizen fitting my description hijacked an airplane?” The question becomes darkly comic in the wake of this arrest. LaRose, after all, fits the same profile, at least in the broad parameters, and if she didn’t hijack an airplane, we can assume it wasn’t for lack of ambition.

The moral of the story: to depend for our safety on profiling is to open a gap in our already gap-ridden security. It creates a blind spot. One can envision TSA giving some Middle Eastern businessman the third degree while a tiny blonde saunters by with a bomb in her purse.

So we should be thankful for the vigilance of federal authorities who nabbed Jihad Jane. In the process, they remind us: Evil is not a color, a religion, a gender or a style of dress.

That shouldn’t need saying. Somehow, it always does.

— Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com. lpitts@miamiherald.com


Bladerunner 8 years, 1 month ago

So one out of hundreds isnt from the middle east. Is that your point?

bearded_gnome 8 years, 1 month ago

why this loser gets the Pulitzer or any award is beyond me! this column is tripe. yes, 1 didn't fit the profile. she wasn't headed for aircraft.

and yet, she was apparently a recent convert to Islam thus Pittsie jams up his own point. recent converts to islam perhaps should be profiled and Jihad Jane and Jihad Johnny prove that.

denak 8 years, 1 month ago

I think he makes a very good point. If we rely on stereotypes and misconceptions about our "enemy" we give them an advantage over us. An advantage they will exploit.

Sun Tzu, the great military strategist, said in "The Art of War," "......So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself."

Pitts reminds us that, unlike Coulter, Thomas and Parker, the enemy does not always look and speak as we think and that if we are going to win over that enemy, we need to think like them and one's enemy is never as stupid as we would like them to be...and if we don't care to know our enemy, they do and they are aware that our 'weakness" lies in racial profiling...so they know to look for recruits outside of what we think a terrorist should look like.


Flap Doodle 8 years, 1 month ago

BTW, it was primarily the folks at http://mypetjawa.mu.nu/ who exposed Jihad Jane's internet presence.

jaywalker 8 years, 1 month ago

No doubt profiling is a slippery slope, but Lenny's point is fairly weak. Like Roed said, this exception isn't the rule.

" it might be fruitful to recall a point Kathleen Parker made in her 2002 column"

It's "darkly comic" ...... 8 years later??? Grasping at straws, Lenny. I'm shocked I say, shocked, that some nut job wants do pledge her allegiance to some terror cell leader so she can get married and then martyr herself for him. Lemme guess, no takers on death row?

BigPrune 8 years, 1 month ago

Did Pitts win the Pulitzer Prize because he is not white?

Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

she was probably a whiny liberal before mohamed manned her up a little

JustNoticed 8 years, 1 month ago

I think we just witnessed Shewmon kissing Penders' ass.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 1 month ago

"Debunks" is a wild exaggeration. Are only people resembling Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab a threat? No. Is Umar more likely to be a part of an Islamic terror organization that Swede Göran Hägglund? Yup.

50YearResident 8 years, 1 month ago

Pitts says "So we should be thankful for the vigilance of federal authorities who nabbed Jihad Jane. In the process, they remind us: Evil is not a color, a religion, a gender or a style of dress."
Wrong Leonard, Evil is a ............................ (fill in the blank). Search the records, one thing stands out 100% in all of the incidents. It should be clear to every reader what the link to all terriorist acts is.

beatrice 8 years, 1 month ago

Pilgrim2: "As soon as Pitts quits profiling Republicans and conservatives, he'll have a point to make."

This was written by someone whose avatar is the saying "Liberals make me SICK!"

I couldn't invent that level of hypocrisy if I tried.

Yes, profiling is bad as a general rule. However, I have to side with RoeD and Jaywalker on this one. Yes, we need to acknowledge that people from all walks of life are capable of doing bad things, but I think it stupid to be screening the little old lady from Sun City while we let the man from Saudi Arabia flying a one-way ticket breeze on by. Penny wise, dollar foolish, as it were.

Still, that doesn't mean the police should be able to arrest you for being black in your own home, Tom.

beatrice 8 years, 1 month ago

Tom. Biden had a Bucklers beer at the "Beer Summit." It is a non-alcoholic drink. http://www.epinions.com/review/Buckler_Non_Alcoholic/content_104416054916


Now Tom, since I have shown that you are completely wrong about Biden and drinking, the question is, will you continue to tell this lie? Are you so obsessed with the wonderfullness of all Republicans that you really are all about party over country and that you will blatantly lie in your attempt to disrespect others?

Tom, will you continue to be a liar, or are you a better person than that? Only you can answer that one.

jaywalker 8 years, 1 month ago

"My, aren't the conservatives upset that Leonard Pitts wrote a column on how a terrorist attack was foiled by law enforcement"

Aaah, porch person perpetually proving a mind's a terrible thing to waste. Yuppers, that's exactly why posters here have been critical of this piece; because law enforcement thwarted an attack.


Porchie playbook in 5, 4, 3,....

Flap Doodle 8 years, 1 month ago

Finding one white skunk with black stripes does not mean that the vast majority of skunks are not black with white stripes.

tomatogrower 8 years, 1 month ago

50YearResident (anonymous) says… Pitts says "So we should be thankful for the vigilance of federal authorities who nabbed Jihad Jane. In the process, they remind us: Evil is not a color, a religion, a gender or a style of dress." Wrong Leonard, Evil is a ............................ (fill in the blank). Search the records, one thing stands out 100% in all of the incidents. It should be clear to every reader what the link to all terriorist acts is.

Yes, the link is radicalism. Doesn't matter if it's left or right, Christian, Jewish, Muslim or any other religion, prolife or prochoice, western, middle eastern, or eastern. If someone thinks that they are right 100% of the time, and everyone else is wrong, then it can lead to violence. Instead of working together to solve problems, they say it's my way or the highway, in other words, I'm going to kill people to get my way. The stupid thing is that terrorism never works. You just turn truly human people against you. You can try and change the world with threats, but it will backfire in the end.

beatrice 8 years, 1 month ago

Tom, how does one have a "hard fall" off the wagon by drinking a non-alcoholic beverage?

Even for you this latest line of attacking Democrats is beyond absurd. Again, you don't want it to be that easy for us to call you a liar, do you?

beatrice 8 years, 1 month ago

Oh Tom, that is just too sad. You posted a satire site as your evidence to support your lie, and all you can do is continue the nonsense. Seriously Tom, what do you gain by putting party before country?

Flap Doodle 8 years, 1 month ago

Worth repeating: jaywalker (Anonymous) says… ...Porch_person's modus operandi when confronting opposing viewpoints: (Step 1) Quote something completely random the opponent says. It doesn’t have to be a full sentence or more than 5 words .(Step 2) Claim their quote should be interpreted to mean s/he supports ‘X’ ('X' = anything you want, like paving the streets with post-notes. Similar to how porchie claims you say something, even when he quoted you saying the exact opposite. It really doesn't matter what 'X' is, as long as it is ridiculous, and keeps the opponent on the defensive to distract from the fact you can't back up your argument). Alternatively, repeat step 1, and using the two random quotes claim they contradict each other. (Step 3) Mock opponent for believing ‘X’ (Step 4) When opponent claims s/he didn’t say that, respond by stating that you quoted him/her directly (even though when you paraphrase the statement it isn’t anything close to what s/he actually said) (Step 5) Insert “(laughter)” (Step 6) If opponent continues to claim s/he didn’t say ‘X,’ use a specious analogy. (Step 7) If opponent continues to respond, claim s/he is “in Garfinkel mode” trying to get away from the fact he said ‘X,’ and/or contradicted himself. But never explain how the quote you randomly pulled is anything close to ‘X.’ And never respond to his/her questions. (Step 8) Insert “(laughter)” (Step 9) If this does not work engage in personal (attacks) by making up facts about opponent, again using random quotes, as described in Step 1 (Step 10) Repeat until you have lost all credibility on the issue.

jumpin_catfish 8 years, 1 month ago

You liberals should be very proud each time this bozo opens up his head the horse biscuits drain out.

beatrice 8 years, 1 month ago

"We'll know how wrong I am come November, won't we?"

Tom, even if your wildest dreams came true and every Democrat got voted out of office and you had your one party Republican fantasy land, how will that change the fact that you are lying and making things up to support your view? How will Republicans in office not make you a liar?

You wrote that Biden fell off the wagon at the Beer Summit, and I showed you that he actually had a non-alcoholic drink. If you are so confident in your wonderful Republican party, why are you resorting to lies in order to support your cause? Ever ask yourself such basic questions?

Katara 8 years, 1 month ago

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Tom has got be funnin' y'all.

jaywalker 8 years, 1 month ago

"Thanks for confirming this. Don't know why you would want to, since you seem to be claiming that I've misunderstood the tenor of the posts coming from conservatives on this thread. A little self-defeating, don't you think?"

Excellent! He does not disappoint, does he? I respond with slap-him-in-the-face sarcasm, and he pretends I'm "confirming" what he posited. someone that immature shouldn't be allowed to write a letter, let alone post on a site. So, so sad. And to top it off ..... AS HE ALWAYS DOES...

... he reverts back to something that's completely false. Just like a 5 year old.

So, so sad.


RoeDapple 8 years, 1 month ago

Let's see... I would set up programs that would search for certain phrases, key words, names, destinations, dates... Wait, that's already being done! Isn't that profiling? But who did that , you say? Yeah, I know...

Who is using it now?

jaywalker 8 years, 1 month ago


I appreciate the attribution, but "The Playbook" is not my creation, though I wish it was. Nope, all the credit goes to Satirical. He took the time to parse that perfect account of the Childish One's MO. I was just overjoyed to find others' came to the same realization.
But thanks for posting it here. I was just waiting to do the same, 'cuz, well, you know.....it was inevitable.

Tell ya what makes me smile even more tonight, though: When porchie tries to enlist others he thinks he can be "in league" with, as he's attempted with beatrice here, and they ignore him. Nope, porchie's the mirror of invictus on this board, and I'm proud and encouraged that even those we might oppose philosophically or politically can recognize when someone's just a flat-out @#@$!!

jaywalker 8 years, 1 month ago

"Don't make me bring up the Sotomayor / Imus quotes."

Make you? You bring them up EVERY time you post at me. But please, feel free to do it again, moron, just makes you look foolish and proves the Porchie Playbook is spot on.

"No one typed that into your keyboard but yourself."

-(Step 4) When opponent claims s/he didn’t say that, respond by stating that you quoted him/her directly (even though when you paraphrase the statement it isn’t anything close to what s/he actually said)

" Wasn't the last time you'd make a racist remark either."

Considering that which you claim to be a "racist remark" was nothing of the sort, care to cite the "last time", little boy?


-(Step 5) Insert (laughter) -(Step 8) Insert (laughter)

"Of course, it's all "satire". It's just "satire" no one else gets."

Nope, just you. And please, stop including others into your psychosis. Besides, it's not only the satire that's been spelled out for you, it's the whole nine yards. You know it, you just choose to obfuscate and lie. That's all you got. If it weren't, you wouldn't keep returning to it.


-(Step 5) Insert (laughter) -(Step 8) Insert (laughter)

"I don't "group hug". You guys do that."

First of all, you don't "group hug" 'cuz nobody wants to embrace your idiocy. It ain't by choice as you've proven in this string by attempting not once, but twice to recruit beatrice. (Whoops! No hug!!) Second, other posters talkin' about your particular idiocy isn't a "group hug", just the sane discussing a deeply disturbed individual.

tomatogrower 8 years, 1 month ago

I heard a woman comment once that if a woman only gets hyper-vigilant in a parking garage when a black man was around, then they were likely to get raped by a white man. She was just pointing out the fact that profiling is stupid. The child molester seldom looks like one, the rapist isn't always black, and the terrorist isn't always a muslim form the middle east.

beatrice 8 years, 1 month ago

Tom, just as I suspected. Very sad indeed.

georgiahawk 8 years, 1 month ago

WOW Tom, new low, in your attempt to make everything democratic evil you sighted an obviously bogus news source. Wow, I hope that makes you pause and look in the mirror! Wow, the veil has been lifted so even you can see!

jaywalker 8 years, 1 month ago

"That's what you typed."

No, it's not, and you know it. You're just a flat out liar, porch, and you know it.

"I asked you politely if that's what you really meant and you replied yes."

No, you've never "asked" anything politely. You extracted your own twisted version of what you want to believe I said and I sarcastically posted: "Yeah, that's what I said", as in "how big a moron can you be? Of course that's not what I said." This too has been explained to you time and again. Why won't you believe what's been explained to you? You're either unbelievably immature, irretrievably stupid, or undeniably disturbed. I'm bettin' I could get a consensus that it's a combination of the three.

"You typed that. Not me."

(Step 4)


(Steps 5 and 8)

"Later, you made some comment that Pitts would be unable to produce the column (that was the subject of the thread you made the comment on) if he had white skin."

Another twisted lie. Man, you need help.

"Do you really think I needed help... Do you really think I needed help.... Do you really think I needed help...."

Needed help? NEED help, severely, desperately, YOU need help.

Have a nice life. Sentence, that is. Bye bye, kiddo.

Evan Ridenour 8 years, 1 month ago

I actually think this is a great article, but with no surprise... Pitts tries to wholly take away the value of profiling in his attempt to discuss the negative side of it.

The simple truth is, we all profile, every day... the majority of the time without thinking about it. It is an easy way to organize the vasts amounts of data we take in on a daily basis and process it in a way our "simple" minds can understand. Profiling isn't something we could remove if we wanted, it is required. But there is a danger of relying on it too much.

Is profiling evil? No. Should we guard against the possible negative consequences of profiling? Yes. Should we take all of Pitts editorials with a grain of salt and think for ourselves...? Yes.

standuporget 8 years, 1 month ago

jaywalker why do you bother with porch person? I believe or at least hope most people understand what you write. You and Satirical (What ever happened to him) are usually the best at getting your point across so anyone well almost any one can understand, whether they agree or not. porch sees what he wants to see.


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