Bad Examples for Racial Profiling

Amid the fallout of the Crotch Bomber, there’s been a renewed clamoring for profiling, and indeed, President Obama has instituted enhanced security measures for travelers from 14 countries. Spencer Ackerman makes the case for why this is likely to actually enhance radicalization and make intelligence gathering more difficult. Much of the argument against appears to have a veneer of theory to it, but I think David Frum accidentally highlights a good working example in his defense of a more tolerable form of profiling.

On his blog yesterday, Daniel Pipes reminded us of the procedure that saved an El Al jetliner from a terrorist bomb in 1986. A Palestinian terrorist had seduced an Irish-Catholic chambermaid at a London hotel. The woman, Anne-Marie Doreen Murphy, became pregnant. The terrorist promised to marry Murphy, if she would meet him in Israel for the wedding. He then planted a bomb in her luggage. Here’s the conversation that discovered the plot…

The point here isn’t the example itself, but rather where the example comes from. Yes, it’s true that Israeli security procedures have effectively ended that sort of terrorism, but are Palestinian-Israeli relations really an ideal here? Palestinian terrorism and resistance draws not only the tangible oppressions of continued settlement expansion, but also on resentment from second-class or third-class treatment. Granted the enmity between most Muslims and the United States doesn’t close to resemble the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but surely it’s reasonable to expect that similar policies would have similar effects.

Even if we assume that racial profiling would be effective (and there’s plenty of empirical evidence to show it isn’t), is a world where U.S. relations with Muslims more closely resembles those between Israelis and Palestinians a world we want?

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