The Corner

More Profiling

Cliff alerts me that Bret Stephens has characteristically insightful observations about profiling in his WSJ column today:

Yes, terrorists come in any number of skin colors, and they aren’t above strapping explosives to their own children. And yes, the Obama administration took a half-step toward sanity by ordering additional screening of passengers from 14 countries, including Yemen, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, home of Flight 253 would-be bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

But here’s a predictive certainty: Not one non-Muslim from any of these countries (or others such as Egypt or Jordan, which were oddly excluded from the list) will ever become a suicide bomber. The localized case of Sri Lanka’s Tamils aside, suicide bombing is a purely Islamic phenomenon. Note that during the whole of the intifada there was not a single case of a Palestinian Christian blowing himself up, making a nonsense of the view that Israel’s checkpoints and curfews and security fences were the main cause of the terror.

So as Homeland Security, TSA and the rest of the government’s counterterrorism apparatus struggle to upgrade travel security in a way that doesn’t involve freeze-drying passengers in their seats, it’s worth noting that we have finally reached the outer bounds of a politically correct approach to airport security. To wit, the U.S. government is now going to profile Muslim passengers, albeit partially, indirectly and via the euphemism of nationality instead of religion. Insofar as actual security is concerned, it would be both more honest and effective if it dropped the remaining pretense. . . .

We reject profiling on the commendable grounds that human beings ought not to be treated as statistical probabilities. But at some point, the failure to profile puts innocent lives recklessly at risk. We also abhor waterboarding for the eminently decent reason that it borders on torture. But there are worse things than waterboarding — like allowing another 9/11 to unfold because we recoil at the means necessary to prevent it. Similarly, there are worse things than Guantanamo — like releasing terrorists to Yemen so they can murder and maim again (and so we can hope to take them out for good in a “clean” Predator missile strike).

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