Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why racial profiling doesn't work

Former Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta had it right when he said that the Department of Transportation under his watch would not allow racial profiling. (A lot of this was also due to his experience growing up in a Japanese American internment camp and knowing firsthand that it doesn't work, but doubly punishes people from those "suspect" groups.)

A recent suicide bombing involved a blonde Belgian woman:

In neighboring Belgium, people are still perplexed over what drove Muriel Degauque, 38, a blond, white Catholic, to convert to Islam and travel to Iraq to blow herself up in November 2005.

There was also a recent study done in Europe which concluded that racial profiling is virtually useless as a weapon in the "War on Terra":

The author of the study, Edwin Bakker, a researcher at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague, tried to examine almost 20 variables concerning the suspects' social and economic backgrounds. In general, he determined that no reliable profile existed -- their traits were merely an accurate reflection of the overall Muslim immigrant population in Europe. "There is no standard jihadi terrorist in Europe," the study concluded.

In an interview, Bakker said that many local police agencies have been slow to abandon profiling, but that most European intelligence agencies have concluded it is an unreliable tool for spotting potential terrorists. "How can you single them out? You can't," he said. "For the secret services, it doesn't give them a clue. We should focus more on suspicious behavior and not profiling."

This is pretty obvious, since if a country announces that they are looking for all green oompaloompas, terrorists will immediately start recruiting red giraffes to carry out their dastardly plans. Racial profiling only increases the efforts of terrorists to recruit those who look anything but suspicious:

Indeed, there are clear signs that al-Qaeda cells and affiliates are intentionally recruiting supporters from nontraditional backgrounds as a way to avoid detection, according to European intelligence officials and analysts...

John Horgan, a senior research fellow at the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said terrorist groups are constantly trying to catch law enforcement officials off guard.

"One guiding principle for terrorist groups is to always maintain the psychological edge and the upper hand by doing things that are surprising to the enemy," he said. "So you'll see the use of a child, the use of a woman."

Incidentally, this is why when grandmothers and teenyboppers complain about being searched at the airport, I say tough lugnuts. Our country is arguably less safer, especially after Bush decided to go ballistic on the Axis of Evil, and exponentially decreased our global likability. So I don't enjoy the curtailing of our freedoms, but if searches are going to happen, they should happen to everyone equally randomly. (Although I have never seen this happen in practice, since every time I see a brown person in the airport line, they are being pulled over to the side for questioning.)

If only more people understood that the shirts proclaiming "I AM NOT A TERRORIST" are truth in advertising and not an invitation for a strip search, we'd all be better off.


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