—Updated Friday, April 7, 2010—
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.”
And now a review of the vile creatures who perpetrated the terrorist acts of 9/11:
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.