Bernie Goldberg asks the eminently sensible question, “And What Exactly is Wrong with Profiling?“
My trip on El Al comes to mind because of what we’ve been hearing recently about the “underwear bomber” who tried to blow up a Northwest flight en route from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas day. By now we all know the story: his father, a prominent banker in Nigeria warned the U.S. State Department in Lagos that his son was becoming a religious fanatic and might be dangerous. His travel history included a trip to Yemen. He bought a one-way ticket. He paid for it in cash.
Did any of this set off alarms? Nope. Too bad he wasn’t wearing a sign that said, “I’m a terrorist and I plan to blow up your airplane.” But frankly, I’m not sure those eagle-eyed authorities would have noticed that, either.
When I look at some of the alternatives to profiling, such as full body scanners, profiling starts looking a lot more attractive. Authorities know who is more likely to commit acts of terror. Patting down five-year-olds is a feel-good measure designed to make us feel as though everything possible is being done to keep us safe, but that actually leaves us more vulnerable because it diverts finite resources away from actual sources of danger.
The United States government owes it to the rest of us to do whatever is within their power to keep us safe. If that includes profiling – and I believe it does – let’s get on with the program.