Tuesday, November 23, 2010

FLG Isn't So Sure

Eugene Robinson writes:
What the critics really mean is not that the TSA should let underwear bombers board planes. What they're saying is: Don't search me, and don't search my grandmother. Just search the potential terrorists.

In other words, they want profiling. That's a seductive idea, I suppose, if you don't spend a lot of time worrying about civil liberties. But it couldn't possibly work. Our terrorist enemies may be evil, but they're not stupid.

If we only search people who "look like terrorists," al-Qaeda will send people who don't fit the profile. It's no accident that most of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers were from Saudi Arabia; at the time, it was easier for Saudi nationals to get U.S. visas than it was for citizens of other Arab countries. If terrorists are clever enough to hide powerful explosives in ink cartridges, then eventually they'll find a suicide bomber who looks just like you, me or Granny.

FLG is conflicted on this profiling business. On one side, there's the civil liberties issue of picking out specific types of people for additional screening. It'd suck for the vast, vast majority of the types of people chosen for more scrutiny who aren't terrorists.

On the other hand, it's hard to deny that pulling people named Abdulmutallab or who look like this aside for additional screening instead of touching everybody's junk and wasting time with granny is very appealing. Sure, it violates some people's civil liberties in an unequal way, but the equality of getting everybody's junk touched or going through a machine that shows the whoopdidoos seems like a pretty big violation too. That said, when FLG is flying he's a white male with a white female and a little white baby girl, so if there's gonna be extra screening based upon profile, then he ain't gonna get it. So, no really skin off his back. But then again, isn't that kinda the point? FLG ain't a fucking terrorist. He's a dad traveling with his family. Likewise, none of the families traveling in and out of DC airports are terrorists either. And if they are, then they're probably not blowing up that flight.

That then brings FLG to Robinson's last point. If we start screening the Abdulmutallab's of the world, then the terrorists will just switch to John Smiths. FLG isn't so sure. Seems like it would be much harder to find a ready supply of middle aged or elderly white people to be suicide bombers. Clearly it's not outside the realm of possibility, but FLG ain't exactly worried about Granny. FLG can't see any Granny he knows being convinced that blowing themselves up to kill other people is a good idea. That's more a young person's thing. And in particular a young male thing. Granted, an increasing number of females are becoming involved in the jihad movement, but the vast majority are men under forty with Muslim-sounding names or crazy looks in their eyes, not Betty White.

Still, as appealing as that sounds to FLG, he still cannot get fully behind it.


Anonymous said...

I think the useful thought experiment here is, suppose (in my case) the usual suicide bomber is in fact a tubby white guy traveling with his family. And, well, I am a tubby white guy who travels with his family, but not a suicide bomber, nor do I want my family killed by some nutball suicide bomber with grievances about Schleswig-Holstein and how it ought to return to Denmark. I think I am in favor of TSA singling me out for an extra special feeling-up. dave.s.

dance said...

Is it that hard to fly on a fake passport that isn't a Muslim name?

Is it so impossible that a terrorist would cut their hair and shave?

Can thousands of TSA workers reliably tell the visual difference among varieties of middle-easterners, Greeks, Latinos, Italians, Indians, Pakistanis, Sikhs, Jewish, and black people?

Dave S., that's not the right thought experiment. The appropriate thought experiment is more like: "since most militia sects are young undereducated white men, I should be subject to search just because I'm white." Do you still agree?

I don't think young Muslim men traveling alone are complaining very loudly about getting an extra patdown---the ones I know just roll their eyes and allow extra time at the airport. The problem is with all the categories I listed above, the old Muslim men, the Muslim men traveling with wife and small kids, who are as equally subject to racial profiling despite NOT actually fitting the demographic.

Alan Howe said...

I dunno FLG, you look a bit like David Headley to me, and just eight months ago "Jihad Jane" put a pretty convincing end to profiling terrorists as a viable alternative.

Anonymous said...

I don’t doubt the patriotism of the Americans involved in keeping the country safe, nor do I discount the threat, but I am sure of this: The unfettered growth of the Department of Homeland Security and the T.S.A. represent a greater long-term threat to the prosperity, character and wellbeing of the United States than a few madmen in the valleys of Waziristan or the voids of Yemen.


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