So Is Profiling Okay or Not?

The Port Deal is in the news yet again today, with lawmakers in Congress continuing to raise shrill criticisms of the decision to allow a company based in the United Arab Emirates to take over operations at six U.S. ports from a British company. President Bush has threatened to veto a bill blocking the sale; his question to the Congress has thus far remained unanswered: why is it acceptable for a British company to run operations at U.S. ports but not a UAE company? And yet lawmaker from both parties are decrying the sale.

The Democratic leadership in Congress is joinging in the criticism. Frankly, this seems a particularly strange position for congressional democrats to be taking. Let me see if I understand this correctly: 99.9% of terrorists are Muslims and a majority of those Muslim terrorists are Arabs; nevertheless it would be wrong to profile Arabs or other people of Middle Eastern ethnicity in airports and elsewhere for heightened scrutiny based on their ethnicity and the laws of statistics and probability. (But see MacDonald on Rational Profiling in his article R. Spencer MacDonald, Rational Profiling in America’s Airports, 17 BYU J. Pub. L. 113, 115-16 (2002) for an alternate view on the possibility of profiling.) However, democrats have no problem with profiling a company in the same way, criticizing a sale of port operations to it purely based on the fact that the company is located in the UAE. Is the logic parallel or not?

The logic underlying the criticism has been expressed by democrat Senator Schumer as follows: two of the terrorists from 9/11 were from the UAE; the company at issue here is from the UAE; ergo a sale to this company poses a threat to security. How is this not profiling? How is this not identical to subjecting Arabs and Muslims to heightened scrutiny in airports? And yet, I am 100% sure that Mr. Schumer and his fellow party members would be loathe to allow rational profiling in airports or elsewhere based on this logic.

So my question to congressional democrats is, is profiling okay or not?

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15 thoughts on “So Is Profiling Okay or Not?

  1. Good post. Yes, it is profiling, and yes, it’s stupid. Port security is handled domestically anyway. This is just a lame attempt by Dems to appear tough on terror, and for Repubs to distance themselves from an unpopular administration.(I do take issue to Colbert’s suggestion last night that if terrorists did blow up a port, who would miss Baltimore? I would!)

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  2. John, yes…this is profiling; and I’m with you and Ronan on this: the politics stink.But I also think this is the house we’ve built. Irrational fear of an entire ethnic class (not to mention any class that remotely resembles) has been created and perpetuated for political gain.Great question.

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  3. I actually don’t much mind profiling. To call it “racial” is a bit of an inaccuracy. It’s “terrorist profiling.” And 78 year-old grandmothers from Iowa don’t fit the profile. However, a 26 year old male from Egypt does.As for the current situation, I do’t know. But when Bush says something aking to “I talked to my advisors and they say there’s no risk” I think “Brownie, you’re doing a hekuvajob” and am completely unconvinced. Bush is an idiot, and his advisors are only so because a) they don’t disagree with him, and b) they helped him with his campaign.So I remain concerned about it all.

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  4. Just to clarify (though I would hope that I don’t need to)– I don’t think that ALL, or even all but a few Egyptian males in their 20’s would think seriously about engaging in some terrorist act against a Western nation/citizen.However, if one were to stack up all twenty-something Egyptian males against 70-something Iowan grandmothers, I’d wager a considerable sum that the former includes more terrorists than the latter.But again, I have nothing personaly againsy Egypt or against Egyptians (or any other Middle Easterner/Islamic-practicer).

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  5. I think that what you wrote goes without saying. That is why the hysteria against anything that could remotely smack of profiling is unwise and unhelpful. But don’t look for profiling to come to our airports anytime soon to aleviate the burden on all but the statistically likely class of would-be terrorists, even if the dems allow it in the case of a port sale that has nothing to do with national security (since all port security will be done domestically in the future as now and as when the British company ran port operations).

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  6. John, it just occoured to me why this is a little different than just a straight-up question about profiling…As opposed to profiling based upon ethnicity, which suggests that there’s something about being a certain ethnic class that makes you more likely to be a terrorist, the profiling of UAE is based more upon the Bushism: “America makes no distinction between terrorists and nations that harbor terrorists.” So:1. The funding for some part of the 9/11 operation has been demonstrated as coming from within the UAE.2. There are many unanswered questions about where terrorists get their funding, but it’s reasonable to suspect such funding comes from monied interests within states like UAE, Saudi Arabia, and etc, as opposed to Great Britain.3. We have long profiled against citizens of nations that are considered to be a threat to US interests.4. To not profile would be inconsistent with Bush “war on terror” policy, which makes Bush’s threat of veto even more odd.You may not agree with all these points, but I think it’s reasonable to consider UAE involvement in our national security at the port maintenance level to be somewhat different than whether a 30-something arab looking man and a white female octagenarian are equal candidated for terrorism.

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  7. I have heard that the reason to not support the move revolves around UAE funding for Wahabi (sp?) madrassas (sp?) worldwide. Does anyone know more about this angle? I know that there must be nice Wahabis out there, but I have yet to hear about them.

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  8. Being an idiot, I bought a swanky knife in a back alley in Barcelona a few weeks ago so I could cut the top off my Havana cigar and smoke it…then, forgot all about it and walked through airport security with it. The Spanish officer smirked, took the knife after it went through xray machine and waved me on my way.9/11 happened with 19 Arabs, mostly Saudis and UAE nationals, with boxcutters. With a locked cockpit, planes could not be hijacked by walking through security with knives. And, so, the chance of a plane hijacking being stopped in its tracks by victimizing dark people at the minimum wage-staffed TSA checkpoint is ridiculous. The policy issues, to this novice in port security matters, seem to me to be:1. Did the Bush administration do proper due diligence on the purchase?2. Are there legitimate, historic social issues involved in racial profiling, such that people hating, say Jews or Mormons could not victimize those groups if someone of their religion does something hideous? Muslims–and Iowa grandmothers–already go through security. Looking for dark people with strange names will not make us safer.3. Has our government created a national environment of hysteria and unfocused fear and dread of Muslims and Arabs as political strategy?

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  9. Brian,1. Yea, but this due diligence did not include national security as an objective2. Nay, it just requires the proper climate and mix of variabled to turn any minority into a scape-goat3. Yea

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  10. I think several things are being discussed here, but what I think needs to be focused here is the question of the UAE running various major ports.More specifically, should we be worried when a country that has recently been associated with terrorist groups which routinely express interest in hurting the US be allowed to run US ports? The answer is that I don’t know. However, when Our Leader tells me that his advisors have checked it out and that we have nothing to worry about, I immediately think that I have something to worry about.Experience has shown that Our Leader is an idiot who has surrounded himself by greedy and/or idiot sycophants.In general, I am not convinced that Our Leader and his followers have done anything to make our country safer. Indeed, I’m quite convinced of the opposite.

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  11. Lancer, calling them “our leaders” is very generous. But in the context of your comment I think these folks are best understood as rogues. The plan to put a UAE-based company in-charge of key facilities and then threated to veto legislation that would disallow it…this is SOP for the rogue cabal. Scary as hell.

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  12. I am not convinced that the points you bring up Watt differentiate what is going on here from the regular old profiling of Arabs in our airports (which is of course not allowed in a PC society). But what you wrote is not without its persuasive supporters, such as Daniel Shore (sp?) on NPR, who in an interview yesterday basically said that all this uproar is just Bush getting bitten by his own scare-mongering. What disappoints me about this statement is that even though it is an irrational statement, if you are against Bush, you are likely to agree with it, regardless of its merit.But it is without merit. It presupposes that the Bush administration has been engaging in some kind of “scare-mongering” that is not actually called for in a situation where Muslim terrorists are attacking not only America but also the greater “West” at any opportunity, whether in New York, Madrid, London, Israel, or now, Iraq. In all likelihood, the NPR commentary was referring to the Patriot Act as Bush Administration scare-mongering. The Left typically points to the Patriot Act as some kind of illegitimate measure (or set of measures) that amounts to little more than scare-mongering in a fake “war on terror.” It seems to me that the only way to substantiate such claims is to argue (and show) that the Bush Administration was responsible for 9/11 and not Muslim terrorists following the doctrines of their interpretation of their religion. Sure, petty Arab diplomats would like the world to believe that America is at fault for Arab Muslim terrorism (it is, after all the evil empire, and because it is rich, naturally poor people in the Middle East need to commit suicide by blowing up buses full of civilians or ram commercial airliners into buildings). But I am not aware of reputable analysts in the U.S. who are joining Arab politicians in making that claim (aside from the odd Colorado professor).Instead, what we have here is a situation in which the American Left, usually very fast to condemn anything that smacks of profiling or collective punishment, is profiling on its most basic level: because two of the hijackers were from the UAE, a company from the UAE should not be allowed to take over certain port operations from the British company that is currently running them. After all, the hijackers were Arab Muslims so a company from a country that is prominently Arab Muslim simply shouldn’t be trusted, despite the due diligence that has reportedly been done already on the deal.

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  13. Lancer, you just put the punctuation point on it. Great image…very totalitarian-esque.John, I think the “Bush getting bitten by is own scare-mongering” is just part of it, also the high-contrast between his words and actions exposes duplicity to his political enemies. But we also have a situation here where Republicans and Democrats are very uneasy with the idea of UAE involvement…so much so that Bush has to theaten what may be his first ever veto. If it were just about Dem uneasiness with the infringement of profiling, it would make no difference as the Repubs would just shut-down any opposition…but there’s clearly more to it.Bush need not have been involved with 9/11 (beyond complacency and malfeasance that is) for his ultimate response to be considered excessive. Turning isolated attacks, though devistating, conducted by a statistacally insignificant number of participants into a global war on terror where the enemy is uncounted and unknown…this is supremely irresponsible, illegit, and scare-mongering of the most severe degree.Finally, as you know, UAE involvement in 9/11 and terrorist operations before and since is a significantly greater reason to be concerned with the port purchase plan, than if it were just two of the states citizens that were involved. I think it’s also important to hold distinct the differences between a state which has both the right and obligation to govern its citizens and a racial/ethnic class which does not.

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  14. And on the subject of duplicity, here’s what I’m thinking:Excluding certain states (and their citizens) which are suspected of aiding and harboring terroism, from opportunities to provide security related services around US interests is a measured approach to discouraging terrorism, while bombing and invading sovereign nations is not.But with the Bush administration, we get just the opposite.

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