Nick Baumann at Mother Jones has written a smart, measured post on how we might make airport security procedures more convenient and more effective. An added bonus is that the approach Baumann has in mind might also save a great deal of money in wasted effort and delays. Two of the ideas that strike me as particularly important are randomizing enhanced screening and enhancing baggage security.
On randomizing screening, an unpopular idea in many circles, I’d just note that one of the four 7/7 bombers was of Jamaican origin, as was the infamous “shoe bomber” Richard Reid. Depressingly, Muslim extremists come in a wide array of shapes and colors, a fact that reflects the diversity of Islam itself. Once we target our profiling efforts on people on South Asian, Middle Eastern, African, East Asian (the Malay archipelago has a large Muslim population, and China’s central Asian and Hui minorities are Muslim), and southern and eastern European origin (there are significant Muslim populations in the Balkans and many Anatolian Turks have “European” features), we’re right back to where we started.
All that said, I certainly think that well-trained security professionals should be allowed to use their judgment to supplement the randomized process. A well-designed behavioral profile might well impact South Asian males traveling alone more than members of other groups, and that seems perfectly reasonable. What worries me is laziness that terrorists can exploit.