Could mandatory airport screenings for passengers from 14 "terror-prone" countries backfire? (Catch up on the mixed reactions to the new measures here
.) Some liberal bloggers argue that national profiling would only succeed in alienating Muslims, on top of being an affront to dignity, while conservatives dismiss such concerns, arguing that compromising privacy is a necessary tradeoff for safety.
- Pat-Downs Don't Alienate "Oh, please," responds Heather Mac Donald at the National Review to the notion of "additional screening" as "stigmatizing and abusive ... We have all gone through airport pat-downs; only the most self-involved take them as a personal insult." She thinks too much fuss is being made over the additional measures, and says that "the people who will scream the loudest about the
alleged civil-rights abuse will not be ordinary citizens but their
largely self-appointed representatives." Mac Donald suggests the following script for President Obama:
"No, we don’t think that every Saudi or Yemeni is a terrorist. We know
that the vast majority of citizens from the selected countries are
peaceful, as will be the vast majority of travelers screened under our
new program. But given the patterns of terror recruiting and the
difficulties of obtaining and piecing together intelligence on that
terror activity, we are taking non-abusive measures to protect flyers
from those countries and the rest of world from an undetected suicide
bomber until we are able to expose and eliminate the full extent of
- Agreed: Normal People Aren't Offended Jonah Goldberg, also of the National Review, makes a similar point, though his regards body scans, not profiling: "the average person already understands that privacy is something you have to compromise to fly."
- The Costs of Alienating Muslims "Formal discrimination against Muslims (i.e., "profiling") is the hottest thing in National Review since segregation
went out of style," writes progressive Think Progress's Matthew Yglesias. But while profiling might "[minimize] the risk
that someone would blow up an airplane next week," Yglesias argues that the "strategic costs of becoming a country that engages in
systematic formal discrimination against Muslims are rather high."
- And Make No Mistake: It Will Alienate Them Spencer Ackerman says the new rules "exhibit all the signs of racial profiling without forthrightly admitting that's what it is." He contrasts President Obama's earlier speeches to the Nobel audience and to the Muslim world, in which he mentioned the importance of "tolerance and the dignity of all human beings," with what Ackerman calls the
"dignity and the justice of being pulled out of line and strip searched
for a bomb hidden in your anus because you share, in the broadest
possible sense, the same faith or heritage as a group of murderous
- A British Perspective: How to Profile Writing across the Atlantic Ocean, where the debate over alienation is particularly fierce, the Guardian's Chris Hume comes down between the two sides:
The profiling of passengers based purely on race, for example, would be
invidious. It would also be deeply counter-productive as it would be
likely to alienate the very communities on whom we rely for
intelligence about terrorists, and as witnesses if we are to secure
convictions. If profiling merely means particularly diligent searches
of people with a recent travel itinerary that includes Waziristan,
Somalia and the Yemen, there cannot surely be an objection.
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