Racial Profiling ACLU by mikeholy



Racial Profiling Revisited:                        and no amount of political correctness will
                                                   change that.
“Just Common Sense” in
                                                        But just because it is easy to understand
the Fight Against Terror?                          this reasoning does not mean it is correct. No
                                                   matter how intuitively obvious it may seem,
By David A. Harris                                 the use of racial and ethnic profiling, even in
                                                   today's circumstances, is a huge mistake that
                                                   jeopardizes the strength of our antiterrorism
We have all heard, many times, that the            initiatives. When we look at what we have
events of September 11 "changed every-             learned about racial profiling on highways and
thing." Many political issues that had stood       city streets over the last few years, we see
front and center in the national debate before     there is good reason to avoid using this tool
that day abruptly assumed backburner status;       to fight al-Qaeda - to refuse to take the easy,
others disappeared altogether.                     quick-fix path of racial profiling.
    Racial profiling - an issue of broad na-           In times of great national fear and real
tional concern before September 11 - did not       threat, it is tempting to say that we must do
become less important nor did it disappear.        everything we can to make ourselves safe,
Instead, it was recast and dramatically            even if that means sacrificing individual lib-
changed. Before September 11, polling data         erties we normally seek to preserve. But we
had shown that almost 60 percent of Ameri-         should not restructure our society and the
cans - not just African Americans and Latinos,     principles that make it great without asking
but all Americans - understood what racial         whether these changes would, in fact, make
profiling was, thought it was an unfair and        us any safer.
unwise law enforcement tactic, and wanted it
eliminated. After September 11, that same
percentage, including those minority citizens      What we knew before September 11
most often subjected to past profiling, said           Before September 11, a national con-
that they thought some racial or ethnic            sensus had emerged about racial profiling: It
profiling in the context of airport searches       is a biased and unfair police practice that
was acceptable and even necessary as long          Americans wanted eliminated. This consensus
as the group profiled consisted of Arabs,          resulted, in no small part, from the data
Muslims, and other Middle Easterners.              released in the mid-1990s that substantiated,
    This is not particularly hard to understand.   for the first time, the stories told by African
After all, the 19 suicide hijackers who            Americans and Latinos of being stopped,
attacked the World Trade Center and the            searched, and treated like suspects by the
Pentagon on September 11 were all young            police. The data proved to a majority of
Arab Muslims from the Middle East. And the         Americans that these were not just stories or
group claiming responsibility for the attacks,     excuses used by criminals trying to escape
al-Qaeda, draws its legitimacy from an in-         wrongdoing, but manifestations of a real
terpretation of Islam that cites the wrongs        phenomenon, something we could observe
done to Muslims in the Middle East by non-         and measure.
believers. Therefore, most people say it               For example, in data submitted by the
simply makes sense to focus our law en-            Maryland State Police to a federal court, Af-
forcement energies on Arab and Middle              rican Americans comprised more than 70
Eastern men; like it or not, they are the          percent of all drivers stopped and searched,
people who constitute the real threat to us,       even though they represented just 17 percent
                                                   of all drivers on the road. (Report of John

Lamberth, Wilkins v. Maryland State Police et           Data that became available in the late-
al., Civil No. MJG-93-468 (D. Md. 1996).) To        1990s made such testing possible for the first
be sure, not every police department, and not       time. These data, from police departments of
every police officer, used racial or ethnic         all kinds from all over the country, allowed
profiling. But it was common enough that            the study of "hit rates" - the success rates for
most minority men and women, of all ages,           police stops and searches using racial
professions, and classes, had either                profiling as opposed to those stops and
experienced it first-hand, or had close             searches using traditional, nonracial criteria
relatives or friends who had.                       that focus simply on observation of suspicious
                                                    behavior. Hit rates indicate the rate at which
    The availability of these data brought
                                                    police find what they seek - drugs, guns,
about an important shift in the public debate.
                                                    people with arrest warrants, and the like -
Fewer defenders of the police denied the
                                                    when they execute a stop and search. In
existence of racial profiling. Rather, they
                                                    these studies, stops and searches of
insisted that such profiling was not racist; it
                                                    Caucasians were not counted as profiling
was just common-sense crime fighting.
                                                    because they were based not on race, but on
Defenders of profiling argued that because
                                                    observed behavior that appeared suspicious.
African Americans and Latinos were dispro-
                                                    Stops and searches of African Americans and
portionately represented among those ar-
                                                    Latinos, on the other hand, may have been
rested and imprisoned, smart police officers
                                                    based on some suspicious behavior, but were
focused their enforcement efforts on these
                                                    driven, overwhelmingly, by race or ethnic
racial and ethnic groups. The fact that this
                                                    appearance. This is why, in all of these
resulted in disproportionate numbers of stops,
                                                    studies, African Americans and Latinos were
searches, and arrests of African Americans
                                                    stopped in numbers greatly disproportionate
and Latinos was, according to a spokesman
                                                    to their presence on the highways, roads, or
for the Maryland State Police, simply "the
                                                    city sidewalks. With these data broken down
unfortunate byproduct of sound police policy."
                                                    by racial categories for each of the police
(Michael Fletcher, Driven to Extremes: Black
                                                    departments studied, I was able to make an
Men Take Steps to Avoid Police Stops, WASH.
                                                    apples-to-apples, side-by-side comparison of
POST., March 29, 1996, at A1.)
                                                    police behavior within particular police
    In order to advance the debate, re-             departments, both with and without the
searchers and scholars needed to confront           variable of race or ethnicity. (See DAVID A.
the assumption head-on. Did racial profiling,       HARRIS, PROFILES IN INJUSTICE: WHY
in fact, make for better and more productive        RACIAL PROFILING CANNOT WORK, chapter
law enforcement? It was already clear that          4 (The New Press, 2002).)
racial profiling existed, given the data from
                                                         The results of these hit rate studies were
the mid-1990s. Many Americans were already
                                                    striking, all the more so for their consistency
aware of the high social costs of profiling: the
                                                    across many different jurisdictions and law
distrust of police, cynicism about the courts
                                                    enforcement agencies. The data on hit rates
and the law, an unwillingness to believe
                                                    show that targeting law enforcement using
police officers testifying as witnesses in court.
                                                    racial or ethnic appearance does not, in fact,
These factors were often dismissed as just
                                                    improve policing. It actually makes policing
the costs of fighting crime and drugs, since it
                                                    worse - less successful, less productive, less
was assumed that profiling did, indeed, fight
                                                    likely to find guns, drugs, and bad guys.
crime. Thus the importance of testing the
                                                    Contrary to what the proponents of profiling
assumption. Did racial profiling really help
                                                    might expect, hit rates were not higher using
police officers find the bad guys more often?
                                                    racial profiling. In fact, hit rates for race-
                                                    based stops were lower - significantly lower -

than the hit rates for traditional, nonprofile-    other traditional enforcement mechanisms as
based policing. That is, when police used          pretexts to do what would otherwise be
racial and ethnic profiling to target black and    forbidden by the Fourth Amendment in the
brown populations as suspicious, the results       absence of probable cause or a warrant or
they got were uniformly poorer than the            both. In Robinson v. U.S., 414 U.S. 218
results they got when they stopped whites          (1973), the Supreme Court allowed police to
simply on the basis of suspicious behavior.        perform a full search incident to a traffic
Racial profiling, then, doesn't improve            arrest, despite the lack of any reason to fear
policing; it pulls it down, delivering less bang   the presence of weapons or the destruction of
for the law enforcement buck. Even if we           evidence, the two traditional rationales for
ignore the high social costs - distrust of all     searches incident to a valid arrest. The real
government, including police and the legal         intentions of the police officer in making the
system; exacerbation of existing problems          arrest, that is, whether the arrest might be
such as residential segregation and em-            nothing but an excuse for a search or seizure
ployment discrimination; and destruction of        for which there was no supporting evidence
valuable law enforcement initiatives such as       at all, did not matter. All that was important,
community policing - racial profiling as a         the Court said, was that there was valid
means to crime reduction simply does not           probable cause for the arrest.
                                                        Robinson set the stage for a series of
                                                   decisions through the 1970s, 1980s, and
A little history                                   1990s that increased police discretion and the
                                                   ability to use stops and searches as pretexts
    The use of race or ethnic appearance as a
                                                   to do what would otherwise be impermissible
proxy to tell police officers who the likely
                                                   under the Fourth Amendment. These cases
criminals might be did not begin recently.
                                                   reached their high-water mark in Whren v.
Some trace profiling back all the way to the
                                                   U.S., 517 U.S. 806 (1996). In Whren, the
slave patrols, which were empowered to stop
                                                   Court resolved an argument that had split the
and demand an explanation from any black
                                                   federal circuits and state courts: Could police
person unaccompanied by a white person, as
                                                   officers use traffic enforcement as an excuse
well as to search blacks' dwellings for
                                                   to stop drivers for investigation of other
contraband, such as books. But it was in the
                                                   crimes when there was no evidence of these
1980s that certain segments of law
                                                   crimes? Since the mid-1980s, the use of
enforcement certainly honed the tactic to
                                                   traffic enforcement as a pretext to investigate
perfection. Racial profiling was not an
                                                   drugs and drug trafficking on the roads had
accident, and it was not the result of a few
                                                   been championed by the federal government
bad apples in policing. It was the predictable
                                                   itself. The federal Drug Enforcement
outcome of a number of decisions by the U.S.
                                                   Administration had been using a profile to
Supreme Court that allowed police to use
                                                   spot potential drug couriers in airports; the
traffic enforcement as a convenient and
                                                   Supreme Court's cases and those from lower
universally available means to make end runs
                                                   courts encouraged the DEA to try to engraft
around the requirements of the Fourth
                                                   this method onto traffic enforcement on high-
Amendment. And it was the federal
                                                   ways across the country. A DEA program
government, through the Drug Enforcement
                                                   called Operation Pipeline was set up in the
Administration, that deliberately made use of
                                                   1980s to spread the gospel of highway drug
these opportunities.
                                                   courier profiling nationwide. The DEA trained
    As far back as 1973, the U.S. Supreme          tens of thousands of state and local police
Court confronted the possibility that police       officers in the tactics of profiling through
officers might use arrests, traffic stops, and     Operation Pipeline; these officers then went

back to their own departments to train others     (Fourth Amendment is no barrier to arrest
and to set up specialized drug interdiction       and accompanying search of woman for
units. The DEA says that none of its training     offense that carries no possible sentence of
encouraged the police to use race as part of      incarceration), make clear is that any changes
its profiles, but training materials sometimes    in police use of racial profiling will almost
showed otherwise. For example, one training       certainly not come from the courts. The few
video shows officers making several mock          successful private lawsuits regarding these
stops; in each one, the driver stopped has a      practices, such as those in New Jersey and
Hispanic surname. The DEA and other federal       Maryland, are not nearly so numerous as
agencies were also disseminating intelligence     those that have failed. (E.g., Nater et al. v.
in the 1980s and 1990s that blamed                Vogel, 106 F.3d 415 (11th Cir. 1997); Chavez
trafficking in particular drugs on identified     v. Illinois State Police, 251 F.3d 612 (7th Cir.
ethnic groups.                                    2001); see also Daryl Kelly, Federal Racial
                                                  Profiling Suit Is Dismissed, L.A. TIMES, March
    The Whren case can, thus, be seen as the
                                                  19, 2002.) Thus, traditional litigation
Supreme Court's final word and official
                                                  strategies, although certainly a tool that
blessing of these practices. The parties
                                                  should not be ignored, do not represent the
confronted the Court with the question of
                                                  best method for attacking these issues.
pretext stops and their use as tools in racial
profiling - the briefing of the case is replete       Yet the inhospitability of the courts to
with references to these issues - but the         opponents of racial profiling is, perhaps
justices were unimpressed. In a unanimous         surprisingly, where the story grows more
opinion, the Court said that unlimited police     encouraging. Lack of success in using judicial
discretion to make traffic stops - even the use   routes to create change has forced opponents
of this power in a racially biased manner -       of profiling to find other avenues: the use and
had no place in the Fourth Amendment              mobilization of public opinion and concerted
analysis. The Court dismissed them as             pushes for legislative measures. These efforts
nothing more than the possible grounds for a      have met with surprising success. By the
lawsuit based on the Equal Protection Clause.     beginning of 2002, 15 state legislatures had
                                                  enacted some kind of law concerning racial
    As a result, racial profiling became a
                                                  profiling. These laws ranged from simple
national topic of conversation in the mid- and
                                                  requirements that police departments collect
late-1990s not simply because of occasional
                                                  data on some or all of their traffic stops to
overzealous law enforcement. On the
                                                  laws that require new antiprofiling policies,
contrary, profiling was an entirely predictable
                                                  training, and other initiatives, in addition to
outcome of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that
                                                  data collection. Besides these new laws,
broadened police power and discretion to
                                                  hundreds of police departments have, on
make traffic and pedestrian stops and
                                                  their own and without any state law
searches to the point that this discretion was
                                                  requirement, begun to collect data to track
for all practical purposes unlimited. That
                                                  their traffic and other stops and searches, and
police took advantage of the authority these
                                                  have revised their policies. In a way, this is
decisions gave them is understandable.
                                                  far more important than state legislative
Indeed, it would have been surprising if they
                                                  action. It shows that these police
had not.
                                                  departments have recognized the fact that it
                                                  is in their own interest to face the issue of
More than one way to skin a cat                   profiling head-on and to forthrightly collect
   What Whren and recent cases such as            information on police practices, regardless of
Atwater v. Lago Vista, 533 U.S. 924 (2001)        what it may or may not show.

     It is this last set of changes - police de-        It is examples such as these that dem-
partments themselves deciding that it is im-       onstrate that we should reject the "either-or"
portant to take some action on profiling - that    dichotomy. The idea that we can have either
points the way to the future. By getting           effective policing or policing that respects
beyond the old questions of whether or not         citizens, but not both, is a myth. We can - we
profiling exists, as it surely does in many        must - have both. Police departments
places, and whether anything should be done        nationwide are taking concrete steps to make
about it, the public debate can move to            this happen. They are not following pie-in-
instituting better ways of policing. Many          the-sky academic theory, but instead using
individuals involved in policing have long         solid management tools and putting the
characterized modern law enforcement using         police accountability at the top of their
a stark dichotomy. We can have good, tough,        agenda. Among the approaches employed
effective law enforcement that brings down         are:
the crime rate or we can have "kinder,
                                                        the collection of analysis of data on
gentler" policing that respects citizens and
                                                   traffic and pedestrian stops and the aftermath
their rights, but we cannot have both. The
                                                   of those stops, including consent searches
example used to illustrate this "either-or"
                                                   and their results;
approach is New York City. During the 1990s
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the New York                 early warning systems, designed to help
Police Department used tough, zero tolerance       supervisors manage officers under their
law enforcement against low-level, quality-of-     charge and to spot officers who may need
life crimes. The crime rate dropped an             more training or who should be taken out of
astonishing seven years in a row. But while        policing in order to avoid further problems
New York accomplished much in the way of           down the road;
crime reduction, it was not alone. Although              greater supervisory responsibility of
New York City, with its nationally ambitious       police middle management - chiefly sergeants
mayor and its role as media capital of the         and lieutenants - for the actions of those
world, got most of the attention, it was only      officers under their commands doing line
one of many major American cities that saw a       policing;
dramatic fall in crime rates. And most of these
cities did not use New York City's zero                  improvement of the conduct of police
tolerance model. In fact, a number of large        officers during traffic stops;
cities, from San Diego to Boston, used                   better training designed to ferret out
entirely different methods that produced           and combat pre-existing biases and to show
drops in crime that were the same or greater       officers how bias-free policing improves police
than those seen in New York - and did so with      performance;
less manpower on a per capita basis. And,
unlike New York, these cities put their anti-            changes in police organizational incen-
crime initiatives together in cooperation with     tive structures, to promote the type of po-
their minority communities, instead of in          licing that is both effective and respectful;
opposition to them. Now, as New York deals         and
with a backlash of distrust between police and          the use of technology, such as video
minority communities, these other cities have      and audio recording and real-time data
built partnerships between their police and        tracking systems, to observe and make re-
minority communities that can serve as the         cords of police actions on the street.
basis for strong efforts to reduce crime far
into the future.                                      (DAVID A. HARRIS, PROFILES IN IN-
                                                   JUSTICE: WHY RACIAL PROFILING CANNOT
                                                   WORK, chapter 7 (The New Press, 2002).)

    In short, there is more than one way to        were repeatedly searched and questioned.
skin the law enforcement cat. Avoiding racial      More serious, the U.S. Department of Justice
and ethnic profiling will improve policing, and,   detained hundreds of Arabs and Muslims - not
along      with    other    accountability-based   one of whom has been linked to the
reforms, can take it beyond the demonstrably       September 11 attacks. The department also
false, "either-or" myth.                           undertook the "voluntary" questioning of
                                                   5,000, and then another 3,000, young Arab
                                                   men who were, according to the U.S. attorney
What about now?
                                                   general, not suspects, in the hope of learning
     Since September 11, of course, much has       something, anything, that might help. (Law
changed in our national discussion of policing     enforcement professionals reacted by quietly
strategy, not least the shift in focus from        refusing to take part in the questioning and
anticrime to antiterrorism. Given all that we      commenting that this tactic differed markedly
now know - a lethal attack upon thousands of       from established methods for conducting
innocent civilians by al-Qaeda, a Muslim           antiterrorism investigations.) The government
organization in which the weapons of mass          has also announced an "absconder initiative"
destruction were airplanes hijacked and flown      in which it will focus its deportation efforts on
by 19 Muslim Arab men for the Middle East -        6,000 men from Middle Eastern nations who
how is it possible to ignore the fact that being   have violated their visas - despite the fact
Arab or Muslim means that one is more likely       that they make up only the tiniest fraction of
to be involved in terrorism? Doesn't it just       all the hundreds of thousands of violators.
make sense to use a racial or ethnic profile
                                                        These actions may seem intuitively cor-
that singles out Arabs, Muslims, and other
                                                   rect, but it is not at all clear that they are, in
Middle Easterners for greater attention,
                                                   fact, the right way to proceed. If we look at
including more frequent stops and searches?
                                                   what has happened in the past with racial
Isn't anyone suggesting tactics to the
                                                   profiling, we will see that there are real
contrary simply suffering from blindness of
                                                   reasons to hesitate to take the profiling path
political correctness? Syndicated columnist
                                                   now. In fact, using racial or ethnic profiles to
Kathleen Parker has given voice to this way of
                                                   protect ourselves against al-Qaeda operatives
thinking. "When a police officer apprehends
                                                   will likely have an effect opposite of what we
and searches an African American only
                                                   desire. Our antiterrorism cause will be set
because he's black, assuming no other
                                                   back, not advanced.
mitigating factors, that's unjustified racial
profiling. When an airport security guard              First, think of what we might call the gold
searches a male of Middle Eastern extraction       standard of traditional policing: the ob-
following a historical terrorist attack by males   servation of suspicious behavior. Veteran
of Middle Eastern extraction, that's common        police officers know there is no substitute for
sense." Parker wrote that "a terrorist attack of   this. It's not what people look like that tells
such enormous proportions, followed by a           the savvy officer who is suspicious; it's what
declaration of war, makes racial profiling a       people do that matters. Using a racial or
temporary necessity that no patriotic Ameri-       ethnic profile to decide whom to regard as
can should protest." (Kathleen Parker, All Is      suspicious cuts directly against this ex-
Fair in This War Except for Insensitivity, CHI.    perience-based principle. Some people do
TRIB., Sept. 26, 2001, at 19.)                     look different than the majority, of course,
                                                   and we know that those in the majority often
   To a large extent, that is the way things
                                                   tend to see people who are different as
have gone. In the wake of the attacks of
                                                   threatening or suspicious. The net result is
September 11, Arabs and other Middle
                                                   that those who look different, especially in
Easterners were removed from planes. Others

some skin-deep way that we equate with                  If focusing on suspicious behavior is the
danger, come under immediate suspicion              gold standard in policing, an accompanying
without any suspicious behavior; our law            principle is the importance of collecting and
enforcement agents shift their attention from       using information and intelligence. If we are
what counts - how people behave - to what           to avoid attacks in the future by al-Qaeda
doesn't: what they look like. We could not          operatives based on our own soil, we need to
make a bigger mistake than to take our eyes         do much better in the intelligence arena than
so completely off the ball.                         we did before September 11. And that, of
                                                    course, means we will have to get information
    A second point is related to the first. If we
                                                    from those likely to know the Arab, Muslim,
use racial and ethnic profiles, instead of
                                                    and Middle Eastern men we might suspect.
behavioral clues, to decide which people we
                                                    This information is going to have to come not
think should be treated as suspects, we will
                                                    from the population at large, but from the
greatly enlarge our suspect pool. This is true
                                                    Middle Eastern communities themselves;
whether our profiles are based only on race
                                                    there is simply no avoiding this. It stands to
or ethnicity (a very unlikely event) or if race
                                                    reason, then, that what we need most right
or ethnicity is just one characteristic among
                                                    now are good, solid relations with the Arab
many in a multifactor profile. This means that
                                                    and Muslim communities in the United States.
our enforcement resources will be spread
                                                    Profiling that focuses on Arab and Muslim
thinner than they would if they were part of
                                                    heritage will effectively communicate to these
an effort focused on suspicious behavior. This
                                                    very same communities that we regard all of
is not a trivial consequence. On the contrary,
                                                    their members not as our partners in law
our enforcement resources will be stretched
                                                    enforcement and terror prevention, but just
to address many more individuals, and,
                                                    the opposite: as potential terrorists. When
therefore, they will be that much less
                                                    every young Arab or Muslim man is effectively
effective. This points to one of profiling's
                                                    labeled a potential terrorist, when many are
inherent flaws: It is always overinclusive.
                                                    detained indefinitely on petty immigration
Judging whether individuals are suspicious
                                                    violations, and even those who have come
based on their racial or ethnic characteristics
                                                    forward to help have been rewarded with
means that many people who would not
                                                    incarceration, it is not hard to imagine the
otherwise draw the attention of law
                                                    result: alienation and anger toward the
enforcement get swept into the dragnet. Of
                                                    authorities at a time when we can least afford
course, this is exactly what happened to
African Americans and Latinos profiled during
the war on drugs. It wasn't just the drug               The interesting thing about the "common
dealer on the corner, but the minister, the         sense" of profiling Middle Easterners is how
doctor, and the businessman who were                roundly and quickly many law enforcement
stopped, searched, and treated like suspects.       professionals rejected it. Attorney General
Many more minorities were stopped because           John Ashcroft's directive ordering the
of their color than would have been the case        "voluntary" questioning of 5,000 Middle
had police simply looked for suspicious             Eastern men was met by skepticism in a
behavior. In the antiterrorism context, not         number of major police departments. (Fox
even the FBI has unlimited manpower. Even           Butterfield, Police Are Split on Questioning of
with the aid of state and local antiterrorism       Mideast Men, N.Y. TIMES, Nov. 22, 2001.)
task forces, little can hold us back more           Command staff quickly recognized the
completely than increasing the enforcement          damage that this questioning would do to
burden beyond what focusing on behavior             their long-term efforts to build crime-fighting
would call for.                                     partnerships with their Middle Eastern
                                                    communities. Some departments quietly

refused to take part or were happy to leave         the smallest detail and then practiced so that
the task to FBI agents; a few police officials      it could be carried out almost perfectly.
publicly rejected the Department of Justice's       Despite our important military successes in
requests that they take part. Eight former FBI      Afghanistan, this set of qualities remains very
officials, including the former chief of both the   much alive in the al-Qaeda structure. In the
FBI and CIA, William H. Webster, went on            aftermath of September 11, we began to
record with his doubts about the law                harden cockpit doors, to check carry-on bags
enforcement value of these tactics; one             for even the smallest potential weapons, and
former official called the wholesale ques-          to profile Middle Eastern men. Al-Qaeda's an-
tioning "the Perry Mason School of Law              swer was Richard Reid - a non-Arab, non-
Enforcement." (Jim McGee, Ex-FBI Officials          Middle Easterner from England; a British
Criticize Tactics on Terrorism, WASH. POST.,        citizen with a valid British passport and a
Nov. 28, 2001.) Little wonder, then, that           bomb in his shoe. Clearly, they knew what we
senior U.S. intelligence officials circulated a     were looking for, and they did not repeat
memorandum early in the fall that warned            what they had done in the past.
about the dangers of profiling. This
                                                         Those who insist that it is a waste of time
memorandum, first reported in the Boston
                                                    to look at any non-Arab, who want all Arabs
Globe, urged law enforcement and intelli-
                                                    carefully screened and searched despite the
gence agents to balk at racial profiling. Pro-
                                                    lack of any suspicious behavior, seem to have
filing would fail, the memorandum said; the
                                                    missed this point entirely. Terrorists generally,
only way to catch terrorists was the obser-
                                                    and al-Qaeda specifically, will always look for
vation of suspicious behavior. (Bill Dedman,
                                                    new weaknesses to use as their point of
Airport Security: Memo Warns Against Use of
                                                    attack. Just such a weakness became
Profiling as Defense, BOSTON GLOBE, Oct.
                                                    glaringly obvious in mid-January 2002 when
12, 2001.) Too bad that this warning never
                                                    the government announced that it could not
seems to have penetrated to the senior levels
                                                    meet the deadline for having all bags aboard
of the Department of Justice leadership.
                                                    airliners electronically screened for explosives.
    Despite all of this, many continue to argue     Instead, the authorities said, they would use
that it doesn't make sense to screen anyone         a group of other stopgap measures such as
at airports besides young Arab and Middle           partial bag matching. It is much more likely
Eastern men. After all, why waste time and          that the next attack on an airplane will come
resources stopping or searching anyone else         not in the form of a suicide hijacking, but
when we already know exactly who the "real"         through efforts to bring an explosive aboard a
suspicious people are? This argument shows          plane - either in the checked baggage of an
a serious misunderstanding of the nature of         al-Qaeda suicide soldier who boards the plane
what we are up against in al-Qaeda. The             and avoids detection through bag matching,
most important thing for us to realize about        or in the luggage of an innocent passenger.
this organization is that beyond its vicious and    Who can forget the foiled terrorist attempt
murderous elements, it has also shown itself        some years ago to bomb a plane by putting
to be intelligent, patient, and thoroughly          explosives in the luggage of the terrorist's
adaptable. These are the qualities that make        unsuspecting pregnant girlfriend? And, as
it a formidable enemy. The attack on the            some federal law enforcement officials have
World Trade Center on September 11 was not          already said, the next face of a terrorist we
the first but the second assault on this            will see is unlikely to be a Middle Easterner;
landmark. When the first attack in 1993 failed      instead, we may see someone from Asia,
to accomplish their goal, the terrorists pulled     Malaysia, the Philippines, or even a European
back and spent eight years devising an              country. Thus, random searches and searches
entirely new method of attack - planned to          of non-Arabs are, in fact, extremely important

security tactics. Without them, we create a
weak point that begs to be exploited by our
     Those who insist on the "commonsense"
approach of focusing on Middle Eastern men
would, of course, have us ignore all of this.
They want a fast food solution - something
convenient and comforting for "us" that only
inconveniences "them." But there is little
reason to think that type of profiling will see
any greater success than profiling for drugs
and other crimes did. If we go down that
failed path we will likely reap the same kind
of reward: poor results and the alienation of
our citizens from the police at a time when
we most need cooperation between the two.
Ironically, if we keep ourselves focused on
traditional methods of police procedures -
surveillance of suspicious behavior and the
collection and effective use of intelligence -
we do not have to fail. We can do a better job
of policing, even as we do right by our fellow


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