The Obama administration said Sunday that anyone flying to the U.S. from 14 terrorism-prone countries, including Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Yemen, will face a new regime of intense airport security screening. Americans and passengers not traveling through the 14 countries on the list will be subjected to random patdowns and body scans. The new measures are a response to the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day. Civil rights groups are complaining, saying it's wrong to treat travelers differently because of their nationality. Is the new policy unfair profiling, or a wise precaution? (Watch a panel discuss racial profiling as a terrorism prevention tool)
Profiling is wrong, and pointless: Singling out travelers from a handful of countries is morally "outrageous," says Gregg Carlstrom in The Majlis, and it doesn't even make us safer. For one thing, the list of suspect countries includes Cuba, but omits Egypt and United Arab Emirates, which produced 9/11 hijackers. This policy of "institutionalized racial profiling" isn't based on sound intelligence—it's just an easy way for the administration to say it's "doing something."
"Hello profiling (and good riddance, I hope)"
Focusing on Muslim countries is just plain smart: The cries of racism are predictable, says Robert Spencer in Jihad Watch, but anyone concerned with American security can see that it makes sense to take a closer look at travelers from certain Muslim countries when we're at war with Islamist extremists. It's true that "there are some conspicuous omissions: Egypt, Indonesia, etc.," but this policy is a "good start."
"It's racism! It's profiling! Passengers flying to U.S. from 13 Muslim countries (and Cuba) will face extra security checks"
This wouldn't have prevented 9/11: These measures are understandable, says James Joyner in Outside the Beltway, because it's "not inconceivable" that a patdown would have detected the bomb in the underwear of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian who took off from Amsterdam. But the new rules wouldn't have applied to the 9/11 terrorists, who hijacked domestic flights, or to would-be shoe-bomber Richard Reid, who carried a British passport and took off from Paris, so it's hard to see this as anything but "a bit of security theater."
"U.S. tightens airport screening for foreigners"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Bush vs. Clinton in 2016 is the perfect way to make millennials hate politics even more
- The latent sexism of the male marriage proposal
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- After Ferguson: Stop deferring to the cops
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- The week's best photojournalism
- This judge is the reason we're still fighting over net neutrality
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- How to adopt the perfect rescue dog
Subscribe to the Week