Along the Tracks

Thursday, May 23, 2002

McGrory favors profiling?

Mary McGrory takes on the Bush Administration (big surprise, I know), this time over the Phoenix FBI agent’s memo from last summer indicating it might be a good idea to investigate Arab men taking flight classes. She’s right, of course; it would have been a great idea to follow up on the agent’s intuition. And you know what? It’s still a good idea, and not just with alien Arabs in flight schools, but with alien Arabs purchasing fertilizer, chemicals, visiting nuclear plants, repeatedly visiting landmarks, carrying barrels of who-knows-what into apartment buildings, etc. You know what else? It could never have happened then, and it could never happen now.

After September 11, the chorus most frequently heard after “Islam means peace” was “no racial profiling.” To investigate Arabs doing whatever legal thing they were or are doing, just because they are Arabs, is the very definition of racial profiling. It is the height of hypocrisy for a liberal like McGrory to blame the FBI or the Bush administration for not doing something which, had they done, she would have been in the vanguard condemning. Racial profiling, used fairly - which means as part of a larger profile of a type of offender, only when other methods prove insufficient and when there is danger of violence - does have its place in the tool kit of security personnel and investigators. Congress, if it had the guts, could set strict standards where profiling could be used, and the method could then be tested in court to judge its constitutionality. And even if it were proven to fall into the category of “illegal search,” the method could still be an effective method to prevent terrorists from committing their atrocities, even if the evidence found during the search after profiling could not be used in court. I’d rather see a disarmed terrorist walk free three days later than a shoe-bomber strolling onto a jet and blowing it up at 30,000 feet, all because he couldn’t be searched based on his profile.

Nevertheless, if McGrory and their ilk want to bash Bush (and Attorney General John Ashcroft, their favorite whipping-boy) on this issue, they have to make the hard choice of coming out in favor of racial profiling. Don’t hold your breath.

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