Category Archives: Militant Islam

The case for profiling

—Updated Friday, April 7, 2010—

New York Times Square bombing suspect, Faisal Shahzad, in a picture widely circulated since his arrest.Once again this post on profiling is getting new attention, in the wake of this weekend’s bombing attempt of Times Square. I don’t know that there is a profiling angle to this incident, per se (that is, the suspect didn’t board an airplane to carry out the action, which might have precipitated a conversation about airline profiling, for example), but obviously Faisal Shahzad fits the Islamic terrorist profile (young, male, hailing from a country known to contain radical elements). My position remains that our government ought to rationally and responsibly engage in threat profiling (which may include consideration of ethnicity or religion when it is sensible to do so, among the larger set of potentially relevant characteristics and behaviors) as part of national security efforts.

—Updated Wednesday, January 6, 2010—

I want to reiterate what I wrote in this post when it was first published. Taking into account certain factual characteristics of airline travelers in assessing and guarding against threat possibilities is both logical and appropriate. This topic, and this post, have received renewed attention since the Christmas Day attack.

On that day a young, male foreign national with Middle East connections attempted to destroy a commercial airliner above the skies of Detroit. How many more attacks – planned and carried out by individuals sharing certain common personal characteristics –  will it take before policymakers reject  specious arguments against any sort of “profiling” whatsoever?

Observing background characteristics of the individual passenger – including age, gender and ethnicity or country of origin – is a single yet important part of air security. Other personal factors, and especially behavior patterns, are of critical consideration. Intelligence collection and connection remains foundational. Physical security measures at the airport and aboard the aircraft are vital.

Comprehensive anti-terrorism efforts for air-travel security include all logical and appropriate measures at a government’s disposal, with intelligent threat-profiling being one such measure. American leaders, bureaucrats and security officials should act accordingly.

—- Published February, 2009—-

Threat profiling is a logical and necessary tool in the war against militants Islamists (aka “The War on Terror,” at least during Bush’s days). News today suggests we should still be using it.

Reuters reported today that “a group of British Islamists plotted to cause deaths on an ‘almost unprecedented scale’ by blowing up transatlantic airliners using liquid explosives hidden in soft drink bottles, a London court heard Tuesday.”

The suspects:

British Islamists who allegedly plotted to blow up seven transatlantic jetliners

British Islamists who allegedly plotted to blow up seven transatlantic jetliners

And now a review of the vile creatures who perpetrated the terrorist acts of 9/11:

September 11th, 2001 Hijackers

Notice any similarities between these sets of photos?

(hint: it’s not a trick question!)

A quick illustration of threat profiling:

An elderly woman and I both board the same plane. I’m male, and 27. She’s female, and 92. Threat profiling identifies me as a greater security risk because these two characteristics convey certain information about the likelihood and probability that I pose a threat (terrorists tend to be young and male).

In another instance,  I board a plane, along with another 27 year old male – this time an Arab, who has purchased a one way ticket, in cash. In this case, the characteristics and behavior of this other passenger indicate that he presents a greater threat than I do.

Obviously, we can’t just look at race, ethnicity, country of origin, etc., but these are important factors that should not be ignored when it comes to security operations against terrorist threats.



Filed under Militant Islam, National Security

Daniel Pearl’s father condemns relativism in War on Terror

From today’s Wall Street Journal comes an important essay by Mr. Judea Pearl, father of the slain American journalist. He laments that too often in elite circles, terrorism is justified, as demonstrated by recent statements of former President Jimmy Carter.

This week marks the seventh anniversary of the death of Daniel Pearl. If you ever considered seeing A Mighty Heart and never got around to it, now might be an appropriate time to rent that movie. There are some emotionally challenging scenes, but I do highly recommend it.


Filed under Militant Islam

McCaskill fails to offer solutions on Gitmo

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) supports President Obama‘s decision to close Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, but appears to have no alternative idea as to what to do with the enemy combatants currently held at the facility.

Located in Guantanamo  Bay, Cuba at the oldest overseas U.S. Naval Base, the facility currently holds around  250 terrorist detainees, according to Joint Task Force Guantanamo. More than half of the over 700 detainees ever in custody at Guantanamo have been released, and the Pentagon reports that at least 61 of those have resumed their terrorist activities against the United States.

Two days after taking office, President Obama announced that the detention facility would close within one year. During the campaign he said America’s moral standing in the world had been damaged by its treatment of detainees. McCaskill echoed those concerns this week, as reported by Missourinet.

However, in 2007 she agreed with 93 of her colleagues in expressing the Sense of the Senate that detainees held at Guantanamo should not be transferred to American soil. The state’s senior Senator, Kit Bond (R),  opposes Obama’s decision to close the facility, questioning what would become of the detainees.

Sen. McCaskill joins Mr. Obama and the European left in criticizing our holding of terrorists at Gitmo, yet offers no solutions. If she has, she should speak up: I searched her Senate website and found no mention of the issue, let alone any proposal on the matter. Obama has said that to hold enemy combatants at Gitmo is the easy thing, and that closing it down and finding different options is in fact the right thing, but the hard thing to do.

His words could have applied to Sen. McCaskill, who in criticizing Gitmo has done the easy thing, but has failed to do the hard work of identifying solutions.

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Filed under Militant Islam, Missouri Politics, National Security, Obama