like to thank the Robert A. Taft Club for giving me the opportunity to speak on
an incendiary subject:
religious profiling as an anti-terrorism strategy.
Some people, on the Right as well as the
Left, believe that examining movement into and within the
I briefly digress with this
act of disclosure:
I am a Northern
paleoconservative with libertarian leanings.
Note here the word “Northern.”
hold no brief against things Southern nor advocate severing the bonds of local
That said, Northern
paleoconservatives properly view
What defines the Northern paleoconservative sensibility in a contemporary context is the conviction that mass immigration, legal and (as a consequence) illegal, is fraying our sovereignty and hence our prospects for survival as a distinct people. The hundreds of thousands, if not millions of illegal immigrants marching in city streets across the nation over the past several weeks to demand recognition of nonexistent “rights” made this painfully obvious even to those who had been ignoring the warning signs. We view mass immigration, especially from cultures with large and growing populations palpably hostile toward the American experience, as a mortal threat to our national identity and security.
Profiling: Workable And Necessary
National identity and
security now more than ever go together.
The terror attacks against the
Now unlike certain misguided “patriots,” I regard as poisonous the psychology of Battered American Syndrome. This is the famous we-got-what-was-coming-to-us argument. The 9/11 terror attacks, we are told incessantly, constituted “blowback,” just deserts for our gratuitous meddling in the Middle East. This is anti-Americanism, whether it comes from the Right or the Left. It certainly is inadequate to the task of understanding the nature of our terrorist enemies.
It is true that most Muslims
living in this country, not to mention those who plan to come, are not
terrorists by any stretch.
But a good
many are the kind who would who give terrorists aid, comfort and applause.
And as we all know now, it only takes a few
dozen terrorists to inflict nationwide mayhem.
Back when our immigration policy really functioned—that is to say, prior
to the 1965 amendments to the Immigration and Nationality
these people, even the sympathizers, would have gotten into the
That leads to a governing principle. To stand an old expression on its head, the best offense is a good defense. About 175 years ago Carl von Clausewitz put it this way:
Defense is simply the stronger form of war, the one that makes the enemy’s defeat more certain...We maintain unequivocably that the form of warfare we call defense not only offers greater probability of victory than attack, but that its victories can attain the same proportions and results.
In today’s context, on a practical level, that means that the movement, conversations and other behavior of Muslims, whether native-born or foreign-born, need to be scrutinized, monitored and analyzed—in a word, profiled. In all likelihood, they are not radical anti-Americans. Yet on the other hand, they just might be. And unlike mere dissenters, these people are at war with us. That is the underlying reality of the cliche, “the post-9/11 environment.” It is a statistical fact: A young Muslim man is tens of thousands of times more likely than anyone else in the world to commit an act of terrorism. He should be profiled.
Consider the following scenario: I am an airport security inspector. A young Middle Eastern man or women walks up to my checkpoint. Would I be inclined to ask (or have another person ask) this passenger some extra questions about his background and beliefs before I let him through? You bet I would. Equally to the point, I’m not going to give extra attention to persons who don’t look Middle Eastern or display outward signs of Islamic belief. To ask extra questions of each and every passenger, on a practical basis, would be a logistical disaster. Taking such inconvenience to its extreme, almost nobody would choose to fly.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with profiling. Some people, quite simply, pose greater security risks than others. Membership in a particular ethnic or religious group is a valid marker for assuming and judging unobserved behavioral traits in another person, especially when we have no other information to go on at that moment in time. To insist otherwise is to not live in the real world.
profiling produce results?
Purer-than-thou libertarians insist the
In August 2001, a month
before the 9/11 attacks, a certain Muhammad al-Qahtani, a Saudi, was turned
away from this country while attempting to enter the
As al-Qahtani was being led
off, he turned around and announced, “I’ll be back.”
He kept his word, though under unplanned
Qahtani was identified as
the would-be 20th hijacker.
recent trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, it had come out that 9/11 mastermind Khalid
Shaikh Muhammad had pointed to al-Qahtani as the hijacker who would “complete
United Flight 93, the one that crashed in
Here is a second
Ressam seemed nervous.
Officers referred him for an additional
He was asked to produce an
Ressam gave the agent a Price
Costco membership card bearing the same false name as his passport.
As the agent began the initial pat-down,
Ressam panicked, ran away, and was caught.
Agents then inspected his car, an “insensitive”
act that may have saved
hundreds of lives weeks later.
who had entered Canada illegally back in 1994 using a bogus passport and a
story about “persecution” back in Algeria, proved to be no ordinary suspect.
His car trunk contained large amounts of
explosives, plus a viscous liquid and four timing devices concealed in black
Later, in 2000, authorities in
What’s common to both cases,
and others like them, is that law enforcement officers had to rely on guesswork
to make a collar in order to protect the nation.
All cops, even the best, find themselves in
emergency situations where they must make an educated guess.
And given the law of averages, sometimes
their guesses will be wrong.
federal government’s zero-tolerance response to any potential onsite profiling
reveals an ignorance of, and contempt for, the nature of police work.
Remember, the two cases I just described were
happy accidents, not products of any official profiling policy.
Had such a policy been in place,
Yet the Bush administration
has learned little.
if anything, appear more frightened of offending the sensibilities of Islamic
and Arab “civil-rights” groups than going the extra mile to track down and arrest
the most dangerous criminals in the world.
Norman Mineta, President
Bush’s Secretary of Transportation [note:
Mineta announced his resignation on
Bush administration model of law enforcement practically invites
I, for one, prefer the Clint
The Patriot Act Reconsidered
The case for profiling, put simply, is far stronger than the case against it. Whether the USA Patriot Act is an appropriate vehicle for profiling is a separate issue. Let us go into a bit of detail. This legislation, officially known as the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, does not formally authorize profiling persons on ethnic, racial or religious grounds. Yet given its overwhelming passage in the House and the Senate in October 2001, only weeks after the 9/11 atrocities, the context was the danger posed by this country’s current and future Islamic population. By giving law enforcement extra tools of surveillance, infiltration and arrest, and by breaking down the traditional information-sharing firewall between enforcement and intelligence agencies, the Patriot Act was meant to root out Muslim terrorists before they attack. Congress, after a lengthy and contentious debate, reauthorized the act in March 2006.
The law is needed, quite simply, because the enemy gives us no choice. Their mode of operation, to use military strategist William Lind’s term, is “fourth-generation warfare.” In this form of combat, subterfuge is everything. The Islamic terrorist radicals are masters of deception as well as destruction. Consider that:
• They don’t have a national capital and, with the exception of the Chechen thugs, are in no sense nationalists.
• They don’t have tanks, uniforms, infan-try or battle formations.
• They don’t seek summit meetings or peace talks, since they don’t want to be found.
• They frequently change their laptop computers and cell phones to minimize detection of messages they send to each other.
• They use fake IDs, not exactly impos-sible to come by these days.
• They heavily recruit inside mosques, which our government apparently deems off-limits for infiltration.
These people live,
breathe and think war 24 hours a day
And as long as they are outnumbered and
outgunned, at least here in the
But hasn’t the Act severely diminished our civil liberties? Critics who make this point, from Alexander Cockburn (Left) to James Bovard (Right), typically denounce the law in terms of what it would do or might do. You’ll notice, interestingly, that their broadsides aren’t in the past tense—as in “has done.” That’s because there’s no hard evidence—even anecdotal, much less systematic—that our liberties have been violated. A couple years ago Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) responded to a request by the ACLU to monitor the use of the Patriot Act. Her response: “We’ve scrubbed the area, and I have no reported abuses.”
finding should not come as a surprise.
The law was written to set a very high bar of proof for a judge to issue
a search warrant, wiretap authorization, or some other surveillance tool.
It also authorized the creation of a civil
liberties board, overseen by Congress, to ensure compliance with existing laws
that protect innocent citizens.
what the law
has brought terrorism-related charges against at least 400 people, many of whom
are in this country illegally; more than half those charges have led to
It has broken up confirmed
terror cells in
Terrorists continue to
strike—very recently in
The Necessity Of Scrutiny
To sum up, there are two separate issues at hand: First, should profiling be used to prevent terrorism? Second, should the USA Patriot Act serve as a means of prevention? The answer in both cases is “yes.” As for the first consideration, there are inherent legal and political risks in profiling. No matter how good the information, every cop runs the risk of questioning, frisking or arresting the wrong person. As for the second, while the Patriot Act may require amending, that’s a far cry from repeal.
The Patriot Act has shown it is capable of protecting us from Islamic terrorists, without violating basic liberties. It is mild stuff, really. Unlike during World War II, for example, we don’t have rationing, rent control, endless war bond appeals, film and newspaper censorship, an active draft, and other intrusive demands by the State for collective sacrifice. This is all to the good. But until Muslims the world over cease in any way to take part in, or endorse, the mass murder of Americans, I shall willingly put up with the Patriot Act’s rather negligible excesses.
The long-range goal of
In the end,