Experts Question Efficacy of Profiling

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 6:04 am
President Barack Obama (WDCpix)

President Barack Obama (WDCpix)

The enhanced screening of airline passengers from the Muslim world in the aftermath of the failed terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines flight 253 has set off a shockwave of disappointment from supporters of President Obama and surprise from security experts. Few believe, based on experience, that de facto profiling is an effective anti-terrorism tactic. But they do view it as playing into al-Qaeda propaganda that the United States is at war with Islam — propaganda that Obama has attempted to publicly refute.

“The marginal returns in terms of increased security from most new measures to check travelers eight years after 9/11 are likely to be less than their costs in terms of inconvenience, privacy and the fears of innocent Muslims,” said Philip Heymann, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration who consulted with the Department of Justice and intelligence agencies on efforts to reform interrogations for the Obama team.

[Security1]Throughout his presidential campaign and first year in office, Obama took pains to emphasize that his perspective on counterterrorism did not imply a hostility to Islam — a credible case, given his childhood experience in Indonesia and the baseless rumors that he is actually a Muslim. In recent interviews, Obama aides have said the president considers his Cairo speech to be one of the highlights of his tenure. “America is not — and never will be — at war with Islam,” he told an audience at al-Azhar University in June.

But amid persistent political criticism of Obama’s approach to counterterrorism two weeks after the failed attack, the Department of Homeland Security announced last week that citizens of 14 nations flying to the U.S. will face additional scrutiny on an indefinite basis, including full-body pat-downs and increasing inspection of their carry-on luggage. Only one of those nations, Cuba, is neither a Muslim nation nor one with a substantial Muslim population. Several of those nations, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, have been the subject of extensive efforts by the Obama administration to convince their citizens that the U.S. aims to help them.

The rules presume that citizens of these nations pose the greatest risk of attempting a terrorist attack aboard a plane. But the December 2001 attempt to detonate American Airlines flight 63 came from Richard Reid, a British citizen of Jamaican heritage. Similarly, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was indicted last week for the attempt on Northwest flight 253, was a Nigerian evidently radicalized in Britain. Nigeria has not been on any U.S. watchlist for terror before the issuance of the new Department of Homeland Security rules.

As a result, Bush administration officials Michael Chertoff and Mike Hayden publicly oppose profiling. Abdulmutallab “would not have automatically fit a profile if you were standing next to him in the visa line at Dulles,” Hadyen, a former CIA and NSA director, said on ‘Meet The Press’ on Jan. 3. “One of the things al-Qaeda’s done is deliberately tried to recruit people who don’t fit the stereotype, who are Western in background or appearance,” Chertoff, a former secretary of Homeland Security, said on the same program.

In his remarks Thursday after receiving preliminary reviews about the attack, Obama assured the public that his administration would “not succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans,” adding “that is exactly what our adversaries want, and so long as I am President, we will never hand them that victory.” He did not acknowledge any tension between his comments and his administration’s new profiling rules.

But Kalsoom Lakhani, a Pakistani citizen who graduated from American schools and directs a Pakistan-based philanthropic organization, said the new rules make her “nervous to travel.” She pointed to an August poll from Pew finding that Pakistan was an exception to Obama’s global popularity, with only 9 percent of Pakistanis considering the United States to be their partner.

Just two weeks before Abdulmutallab’s failed attack, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton claimed “solidarity with the people of Pakistan” at a gala thrown in New York by a new outreach group, the American Pakistan Foundation. “I believe that you are helping to lay the foundation for a new era of partnership not only between our countries, but between our people,” she continued, themes that her special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, has sounded throughout 2009. Yet Pakistanis attempting to visit the U.S. will now face the mixed signal of being singled out for added scrutiny at airports. (In Cairo, Obama pledged, “we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America.”)

Lakhani questioned whether the administration’s profiling would have negative implications for Muslims living in America as ell. “If Muslim-Americans like [Fort Hood shooter] Nidal Hasan and the five Americans arrested in Pakistan are turning to radical Islam, is that symptomatic of Muslim-Americans feeling out of place and marginalized in America?” she said in an email. “Do we exacerbate that problem by the way we react to these incidents (CNN’s ‘Homegrown Terror’ special for example), acting as if they are a stain on the entire Muslim community or Islam rather than the crimes of individuals who are radicalized on the fringe?”

Mike German, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, added, “If you employ racist policies, it shouldn’t be surprising if that engenders hostility rather than cooperation.”

German, now a legal counsel to the ACLU, said he regretted Obama’s apparent capitulation to a political climate that still features collective suspicion of Muslims. “Our politicians aren’t grown up about it,” he said. “I have tremendous confidence in the intelligence of the American people when they’re given correct information about terrorism.”

Follow Spencer Ackerman on Twitter



Comment posted January 12, 2010 @ 11:21 am

a few remarks come to mind:

1. you don't need to travel. this is a modern, and flighty, phenomena. a hundred years ago you were some hot shit if you even managed to leave your home town. now people are indulging in escapism in every manner. personally, i despise world travelers and jet-setters. it was george harrison that said the further you travel the less you know.

2. you can't please everybody. clearly these new measures are common-sensical and the writers of this article are arguing on a counter-intuitive bent. if the vast majority of “terrorists” are muslim, you'd have to be retarded not to pay more attention to muslims. sorry if that hurts your PC feelings, but it's this same milktoast mentality that makes living in the modern era almost unbearable.

Comment posted January 12, 2010 @ 3:51 pm

We don’t need profiling to identify Individuals like the Christmas-Day Bomber!

Virtually all media outlets are discussing whether we should be profiling all Arab Muslims; I will in the one-page explain why we don’t need profiling. Over 15 years ago, we at the Center for Aggression Management developed an easily-applied, measurable and culturally-neutral body language and behavior indicators exhibited by people who intend to perpetrate a terrorist act. This unique methodology utilizes proven research from the fields of psychology, medicine and law enforcement which, when joined together, identify clear, easily-used physiologically-based characteristics of individuals who are about to engage in terrorist activities in time to prevent their Moment of Commitment.

The Problem
Since the foiled terrorist attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian national on Northwest Flight 253 to Detroit, the President has repeatedly stated that there has been a systemic failure as he reiterates his commitment to fill this gap in our security. This incident, like the Fort Hood shooting, exemplifies why our government must apply every valid preventative approach to identify a potential terrorist.

The myriad methods to identify a terrorist, whether “no-fly list,” “explosive and weapons detection,” mental illness based approaches, “profiling” or “deception detection” – all continue to fail us. Furthermore, the development of deception detection training at Boston Logan Airport demonstrated that the Israeli methods of interrogation will not work in the United States.

All media outlets are discussing the need for profiling of Muslim Arabs, but profiling does not work for the following three reasons:

1. In practice, ethnic profiling tells us that within a certain group of people there is a higher probability for a terrorist; it does not tell us who the next terrorist is!

2. Ethnic profiling is contrary to the value our society places on diversity and freedom from discrimination based on racial, ethnic, religious, age and/or gender based criteria. If we use profiling it will diminish our position among the majority of affected citizens who support us as a beacon of freedom and liberty.

3. By narrowing our field of vision, profiling can lead to the consequence of letting terrorists go undetected, because the terrorist may not be part of any known “profile worthy” group – e.g., the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh

The Solution
Our unique methodology for screening passengers can easily discern (independently of race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, age, and gender) the defining characteristics of human beings who are about to engage in terrorist acts.

The question is when will our government use true “hostile intent” through the “continuum of aggressive behavior” to identify potential terrorists? Only when observers focus specifically on “aggressive behavior” do the objective and culturally neutral signs of “aggression” clearly stand out, providing the opportunity to prevent these violent encounters. This method will not only make all citizens safer, but will also pass the inevitable test of legal defensibility given probable action by the ACLU.

As our Government analyzes what went wrong regarding Abdulmatallab’s entrance into the United States, you can be assured that Al Qaeda is also analyzing how their plans went wrong. Who do you think will figure it out first . . . ?

Visit our blog at where we discuss the shooting at Fort Hood and the attempted terrorist act on Flight 253.

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Comment posted January 13, 2010 @ 1:10 am

By any standard of fair judgment,and by any parameters of a civilized community, the ongoing or likely to be practiced US profiling policy at the US airports(specifically a Muslim fixed criteria), seems to have raised many reservations/opposition by the Muslim community at large,particularly the Pakistani community which considers the current immigration/security policy_ as a means to make the unbridgeable ghettos between the West and Muslims in general_ and a way( in a particular) that would create more differences between Washington and Islamabad.

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Comment posted January 13, 2010 @ 4:28 am

Few believe, based on experience, that de facto profiling is an effective anti-terrorism tactic. But they do view it as playing into al-Qaeda propaganda that the United States is at war with Islam.

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Comment posted January 13, 2010 @ 9:16 am

1) People need to travel, I travel quite a bit for work. This has nothing to do with escapism, my job simply demands it. Also, are you really quoting a musician as a source of intelligent quotes? Really? Here: “The amount of travel you have performed and what you know probably don't correlate significantly”. There, I as random a person as George Harrison with respect to travel and how it correlates to knowledge.

2) Why is it counterintuitive to say racism is bad? Look at it this way: two major attempted terrorist attacks on airlines in the last 8 years. One British and one Nigerian. Here's an idea let's target a billion people for extra checks to find one guy in 8 years (since the British guy wouldn't have been found through these checks – possibly neither would the Nigerian, as Nigeria wasn't on any lists before this). As the article points out, finding that one guy (possibly none) would require an enormous cost both in terms of resources and in terms of political capital towards the muslim community. Racist policies only engender less cooperation, meaning that if the muslim community feels targeted, they will be less inclined to help prevent terrorism. Remember, the guy's father was the one who called the US embassy, if he say the US as a country he could not trust, do you think he'd have tried to warn it?

People who have never been the target of racism generally don't think it's such a bad thing, until you are confronted with it and have to suffer through the constant humiliation of being the only one singled out for something just because of your skin color or nationality.

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Comment posted January 13, 2010 @ 5:34 pm

Since the President took the oath of office back in January, 2010, the American people heard this President address the muslims around the world! When the President traveled all over Europe from G-20 to Cairo and other muslim countries, apologizing to them for Americans arrogance!

I don't know where President Obama was on 9-11, but for me–I do remember!

The screams–the people running with a MASSIVE SMOKE following on their heals–AMERICA WAS ATTACKED!

No not all muslims are responsible for the RADICAL ISLAMISTS! But I also remember Muslims dancing and shouting because THIS HAS HAPPENED TO AMERICA!

For those who could dance in American streets because of the terrorists acts with Americans dying, shows the attitude of the muslim world toward America needs to be addressed. America hasn't heard one leadr condemning and apologizing for those who attacked America. Sure some World leaders spoke briefly because they didn't want Americans after their country!

Our President (as I stated) I don't know where he was on 9-11 or if he even tried to do community outreaches in New York after 9-11—but we need this President to understand— the fathers who didn't return home to their children–mothers and dads (both didn't return home to ever see their children again)–Grandparents and the list could on and on—BUT AMERICA DIDN'T START THIS WAR ON OUR SOIL–

Such as–Flight 253 on Christmas Day!

The Intelligence Agencies wonder why a double agent would kill top CIA agents–what if the YEMEN detainees that were released back into Yemen the week before Christmas–told of the events of the past 8 years in GITMO–BROUGHT MORE ANGER IN A REGION THAT IS A HOT SPOT FOR TRAINING TERRORISTS. The Government knew there were terrorists training camps in Yemen before they released the detainees.

What if the stories were told—young men and (I expect–young women) heard and acted on their on to do anything—anywhere—to get revenge for their kindred!

What if the double agent heard the stories and said: “I am not going to help these Americans–and since innocent muslim blood might have been shed due to my actions—I MUST KILL THE CIA AGENTS who were PART OF THAT SYSTEM!

Profiling Americans traveling into Sudan–Afghanistan–Jordan–and other Arab countries DO NOT PROFILE AMERICANS BECAUSE WE ARE CIVIL! But under attack–Americans take whatever actions necessary to protect Americans!


Comment posted January 16, 2010 @ 6:47 pm

World Stability Based Upon [UN] Mandate and [NATO] Enforcement.

Now Simon Koschut teaches at the JFK Institute for North American Studies at Berlin’s Free University, Social Networks, on the site (http://www.Spiegel.DE), in a column, entitled (How to Get out without Forsaking Afghanistan’s Stability), highly recommended reading, which ties into the [Impetus Meetings]

[Impetus Meetings]

German representative completed its [1st] of [3] Three Impetus meetings with member states of the [EU] European Union, and [NATO] the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which was held upon the [1st] Tuesday, 12th, Jan., in Abu Dhabi, a [2nd] meeting has been scheduled for next week Tuesday, 19th, Jan. and the [3rd] and most important what is called a Town Hall Meeting in Cologne, Germany on Jan. 25th, just [3] Three days prior to the London [Confab] meeting. The time has come for Germany to take charge of its own destiny, it is time to make a decision is Germany a Sovereign State of the [21st] Century, and the outcome of the meeting [Will] well determine the future of Germany in the [21st] Century, demonstrated by its support or nonsupport of the American-Israeli Empires Wars of Economic Stimulus, Resources and Markets, Blood for Oil rampages on the Islamic Crescent/Arabian Crescent/Hindu Cush.

[The list of seven]

The list of [7] Seven bench marks that are required to get of the Islamic Crescent/Arabian Peninsula/Hindu Cush Mandated by the [UN] United Nations and Enforced by [NATO] the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are;

1. Afghanistan Ownership = the [2nd] Surge now in progress on the Islamic Crescent/Arabian Peninsula/Hindu Cush, the [UN/NATO] would take a country into receiver ship, after a vote by the [UN].

2. Appoint a Coordinator = each member of the coalition of the willing would have a [UN] appoint a Czar with ultimate authority with over-riding authority, and would answer to [NATO] the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which in turn would set the levy upon that nation for troops and support.

3. In Together, Out Together = Each member of the coalition is locked into, married to [NATO] until death do them part, and there will be no firm, hard withdrawal date, and would remain in effect until another [UN] vote to remove receivership status once a state so taken into receiver ship status or will forever remain in receiver ship status.

4. Regional Ownership = The Russian Federation and the Peoples Republic of China in this case the Spheres of Influence within the region, will be required to go along with whatever [UN/NATO] voted mandate has been made, as them to go along with.

5. Carrots and Sticks = A World Police Force paid for by the international Law and Order Trust Fund under [UN] control, paid for by a tax levied upon [UN] member nations.

6. Remain Engaged = A combined military, paramilitary, civilian structure again under [UN/NATO] mandate and enforcement authority, would remain until a vote by the [UN] to remove the intervention for rehabilitation forces, the [ISAF] International Security Assistance Force.

7. Decentralize Governance = Under the [UN] Mandate, Governments would be established within the receivership governments in of the Switzerland type government or after Bosnia’s [1993]-proposed Vance-Owen Plan.

[Simon Says]

Basically its , [UN/NATO] intervention, is a group/coalition of nations providing force for the crafting of appropriate solutions of intervention, for the rehabilitation of governments which no longer are considered responsible and therefore no longer legitimate governments as decided by [UN] vote. This is nothing new, this was the basic idea of the [UN] in the [1950’s], and one which we of the generation of that era had great hopes for. There are some twists the [Czar] idea, but the rest is pretty much the founding ideas behind the creation of the [UN], and like many ideas it looked good on paper, but what we got instead was the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, and war after, war, after war. But, at least you have got to give Simon credit for putting something on the table for the [Impetus and Comfab] meetings, the alternative is just more of the same, but sometimes the game of Simon Says, isn’t for everyone.


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Our President (as I stated) I don't know where he was on 9-11 or if he even tried to do community outreaches in New York after 9-11—but we need this President to understand— the fathers who didn't return home to their children–mothers and dads (both didn't return home to ever see their children again)–Grandparents and the list could on and on—BUT AMERICA DIDN'T START THIS WAR ON OUR SOIL-

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Comment posted July 27, 2010 @ 8:00 am

Since the President took the oath of office back in January, 2010, the American people heard this President address the muslims around the world! When the President traveled all over Europe from G-20 to Cairo and other muslim countries, apologizing to them for Americans arrogance!

Comment posted August 8, 2010 @ 4:06 pm

The screams–the people running with a MASSIVE SMOKE following on their heals–AMERICA WAS ATTACKED!

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Comment posted August 20, 2010 @ 2:50 am

When the President traveled all over Europe from G-20 to Cairo and other muslim countries, apologizing to them for Americans arrogance!

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