So It Begins

Monday, August 14, 2006
Or at least the idea is being discussed in Britain. Muslims face extra checks in new travel crackdown
THE Government is discussing with airport operators plans to introduce a screening system that allows security staff to focus on those passengers who pose the greatest risk.

The passenger-profiling technique involves selecting people who are behaving suspiciously, have an unusual travel pattern or, most controversially, have a certain ethnic or religious background.


I am not happy that things have come to this, but why should we all be inconvenienced to maintain a polite fiction? Trustworthy is as trustworthy does. Perhaps it is time to put aside PC and name names. Bush used the f-word, now the Brits look to be recovering some of their pragmatic nature. Europe, no doubt, will also begin to adapt. Denmark is ahead of the bunch and may have avoided the worst problems through early action. France? Given French tradition things could get hairy if the fit comes upon them. Maybe France really will get serious in Lebanon.

If Iran now explodes a nuclear weapon, say around Aug. 22, things could get very interesting. Europe could, if so inclined, reestablish itself as an imperial power in the region. I am not saying it will happen, but Europe has the power to do so if it wishes. The military disparity is arguably greater than in the days of the Great Game. The radical muslims are pushing their luck and risk waking a sleeping giant, and I don't mean the US.


truepeers said...

At a certain point, this is inevitable. Everyone knows that the Muslim leaders in Britain are not committed to doing anything and everything to protect their country and its established culture. And therefore, whatever "moderate" Islam there is out there, it is not represented and quite certainly exists in fear of speaking out against the hate mongers. If this were not the case, it would be very hard for many terrorists to hide in Britain. But since they are being hidden, despite the protestations, after the fact, that no one could have guessed that so and so would get in trouble, those who effectively hide them have to pay the price. Profiling, to some degree, makes sense, whatever the likelihood that more whites will be recruited by the Jihad. In any case, profiling of all young males is to be encouraged in all contexts of mitigating violence, while grandmothers can be, most usually, safely ignored. If one is profiled, one should accept it and do one's duty. The system is not out to get the innocent. If only we could get over the conspiratorial nonsense from the human rights left, we would all be much happier for it.

Frankly I think all mosques should be licensed and monitored, and a lot of clerics and mosque janitors should be looking for new jobs. And I would work as a bodyguard for the moderates we put in charge of the monitoring, and for the (would-be) apostates and women who live in fear, in a totalitarian demi-monde, within our supposedly free societies. Either we draw a clear line and stand up, or we shut up and admit we don't have the conviction to defend a free society.

truepeers said...

Of course what I suggest about reforming Islam may not be possible, the moderates I hope for may never speak out because they will never find interpretations of Islam that convince many, given the central role of Jihad, or whatever, in the faith. But I think we have a duty to do all we can to push for reform, to divide and conquer, to find and reward our kind of Muslims before we set about the question of admitting defeat or returning to colonization and/or quarantining the Islamic world. We should perhaps make clear that these are our options at this point and that we will try seriously to encourage reform, say for a test period of a few years before turning to plan B. But imagine a politician with the courage to say any such thing. Does one exist?

terrye said...

I got on a plane a couple of years ago. A young man with shaved arms and wonderful cologne and an obvious Middle Eastern accent got on that plane as well. No body could take their eyes off him. If the man had sneezed I think 8 men would have jumped his ass. It has become instinct.

Morgan said...

I am not happy that things have come to this, but why should we all be inconvenienced to maintain a polite fiction?

Almost no one likes the idea of profiling in this way, because we know that a large number of innocent people will be treated differently, and less kindly, because of their relatively nonselective profile.

On the other hand, there are questions of resource allocation as well. We can't scrutinize everyone as closely as we could scrutinize 1% of everyone for any given allocation of resources.

There are two camps on the issue, one considers equal treatment to be absolutely sacrosanct, while the other believes that there is a point at which equal treatment loses out in favor of safety, efficiency, and convenience. Leaving the precise definition of where that point is open, I fall into the latter camp.

I think we need to remember, though, that profiling has a flaw that can be exploited. The profile is known to the bad guys, and the existence of a "suspect" profile means that there is a "not so suspect" one as well. So you may effectively put extra bouncers at the front door while leaving the back door wide open.

Ed onWestSlope said...

The majority of 'common people' tend to have the right instincts. The trick is to keep any response within a proper moral framework. This applies to parenting, workplace management and riding airplanes. The inexcusable cannot be excused. Not crossing the moral line while practicing prudence is difficult and will involve mistakes. We pray for wisdom.

Then again, From my point of view, the 'wonderful cologne' is almost reason enough.
But I live in a region where many folks tend to be a little obnoxious. My dear wife is still working to civilize me.

Syl said...

Morgan's got it.

the existence of a "suspect" profile means that there is a "not so suspect" one as well.

What we're discussing is actually false choices. We're so fed up with political correctness that we think dropping that sham is the answer. It's not.

But there may be a solution which will have mostly the same end, and that is what the Israeli's do. They look for behavior, something in the eyes, whatever. They look at the people not the objects they carry.

I have no idea if we can train thousands of TSA folks to be able to do that. Or, perhaps, that type of screening requires fewer people to implement. I don't know.

I don't even know if it will really work on such a large scale or how foolproof it would be.

Perhaps a combo of non-pc profiling plus the Israeli method would do it.

Whatever, there will be a backlash we have to deal with whatever we do.

ex-democrat said...

Profiling will be most effectively opposed by liberal attorneys who fully ingested the "concentration camp" interpretation of WWII Japanese-American internment picked up from their study of the Supreme Court's Korematsu decision.

This might be a good time to review that decision. Here's the Wikipedia entry:

Skookumchuk said...


But there may be a solution which will have mostly the same end, and that is what the Israeli's do...

I have no idea if we can train thousands of TSA folks to be able to do that.

Let me see if I remember this right. I once read a story about Israeli aviation security where a passenger claimed to be an architect and was asked by the security person "who was Palladio?" I don't know if this is apocryphal or not, but the point is that this type of question presupposes a broad degree of knowledge of the world that virtually no worker bee at TSA is likely to posess.

And working on the assumption - unfortunately a correct one - that such people will never be hired, the emphasis is always on making the technology smart.

But at some point, we'll have to start hiring people who can ask all types of questions of all sorts of people. We are still a long ways away from that.

ex-democrat said...

syl - jeff goldstein has a comment today that relates to your earlier point:
"...all the hypotheticals about terrorists simply adapting by recruiting suicide operatives that don’t fit “the profile” is inapposite, as the ethnic component of terrorist profiling is simply intended to (commonsensically) augment the screening of other signals (strange behavior, unusual travel patterns, one-way tickets purchased with cash, etc.)."