Opinion Brief

Airport screening: Would profiling work?

Amid an outcry over pat-downs and scanners, some commentators say TSA authorities should leave most flyers alone and focus on Muslims. Realistic — or racist?

The battle over the TSA's invasive new airport screening techniques has revived debate over another controversial security option: Racial and religious profiling. Conservative critics who feel that "naked scanners" and full-body pat-downs trample the privacy rights of law-abiding travelers say that authorities should focus on Muslims and people from the Middle East who share traits like age and nationality with the profile of many terrorists. Would it be fair — and effective — to subject Muslims to more invasive screening than other passengers? (Watch a CNN discussion about airport profiling)

The time for profiling has come: "Profiling has become a dirty word, synonymous with prejudice, racism, and bigotry," says Asra Q. Nomani at The Daily Beast, but the sad truth is that many terrorists share "one common denominator": Many of them are Muslim. Singling out people with similar backgrounds isn't about racism, but "threat assessment." So, as a Muslim woman, I say, "profile me."
"Airport security: Let's profile Muslims"

Why is it okay to violate the privacy of Muslims? Republicans didn't bat an eye when George W. Bush was shredding the Constitution in the name of fighting terrorism, says Ed Brayton at Science Blogs. Now that President Obama is in charge they're outraged that "some TSA agent might see anonymous nudity." Why should the same violations of privacy be fine when they're "aimed only at Muslims or Arabs or North Africans"? What hypocrisy.
"Conservatives channel Capt. Renault on the TSA"

Profiling might not even work: Profiling isn't just controversial, says Eric Gertler at The Huffington Post. Some authorities, including former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, argue that it's dangerously ineffective. It would have "failed to detect such diverse terrorists as Jose Padilla, a Hispanic, or Colleen LaRose, a woman, among others." The bottom line is that security is a balancing act — we can have safety or complete privacy, but not both.
"The TSA's balancing act to keeping our airports secure"

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