December 29, 2005
I’ve said before that I don’t think racial profiling is useful in itself. After all, there are too many ways to work around racial profiling, especially given the average American’s inability to tell a South American from an Arab. That, coupled with the fact that smart terrorists would actively recruit people who “didn’t look like terrorists”, and I think we can show that racial profiling, in itself, is simply not useful.
Understanding, however, that we have limited resources to spot and stop threats, I suggested previously that we look at “risk groups” and profile accordingly. Obviously, I’m a large young white male, but I certainly believe I should receive more scrutiny than a 55-year-old frail blonde woman. It’s not a racial matter, it’s simply a matter of giving more attention to the people who could do more damage in a situation.
As such, this story caught my eye:
The Transportation Security Administration plans to train screeners at 40 major airports next year to pick out possible terrorists by engaging travelers in a casual conversation to detect whether a person appears nervous or evasive and needs extra scrutiny.
The new security technique, already in use at some airports, adds a psychological dimension to screening by trying to find high-risk passengers based on how they act at checkpoints or boarding gates.
Behavior detection is routine in security-conscious countries such as Israel, where air travelers routinely face aggressive questioning.
U.S. Customs officers have long asked arriving travelers questions, often in random order. If a person gives “stumbling answers,” that could indicate the person has fraudulent travel documents or plans to overstay a visa, says Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Kelly Klundt.
This sounds promising. After all, this isn’t expensive, is vetted by the Israelis (who take security a little more seriously than we do), and seems like it might be an added layer of defense. If we can find ways to more adequately spot people acting suspiciously, it’s pretty likely that we might prevent more nefarious attacks.
Of course, we can’t exactly implement this without some sort of uproar from the usual suspects:
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says the technique leads to racial profiling and has sued to stop a behavior-screening program run by the Massachusetts State Police at Boston’s Logan International Airport. That program, the first at a U.S. airport when it began in 2002, was challenged last year after a black ACLU official said he was questioned and threatened with arrest if he didn’t show identification.
“If you’re going to allow police to make searches, question people and even make arrests based on criteria rather than actual evidence of criminality, you’re going to have racial profiling,” says Barry Steinhardt, a privacy law specialist at the ACLU.
I’m not one to normally blast the ACLU for actively trying to weaken our defenses against terrorists, but it certainly seems like there’s not very many benign explanations for this. They’re claiming that police will use this to unfairly target Arabs and middle-eastern men. After all, to the ACLU, if we’re not searching every 4th 80-year-old granny at the same time we search every 4th 22-year old bearded Arab, we’re a despicable country.
There has to be a balance here. We need to give our police tools to search out the greatest threats. And behavioral criteria seem to be an excellent way to do that. Can some folks schmooze their way through it and fool a policeman with their answers? Sure, but I have to think that this is better than nothing.
At the very least, this is better than putting a random “SSSS” on a boarding pass to announce to the world that someone is picked for “added security”. I got that on my boarding pass on my way to Cali last week, and remarked to my wife long before we hit the security checkpoint that I got the extra security line, because I have a little bit of sense and can figure out what “SSSS” means. At the very least, we need to find a more discreet way of marking boarding passes. If someone like me knows what “SSSS” means, you will be darn sure that a terrorist does.
This is a common sense reaction to a serious problem. And with anything related to common sense, once the authorities and the interest groups get a hold of it, it has absolutely no chance of surviving.
The Liberty Papers»Blog Archive linked with Rights of the Government to Impose Air Security Measures
The Unrepentant Individual linked with Rights of the Government to Impose Air Security Measures
The Unrepentant Individual linked with Carnivals of Liberties
Louisiana Libertarian linked with Carnival of Liberty 27
Stop The ACLU linked with Carnival of True Civil Liberties
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