The Case for Profiling Air Travelers

One of the results of the recent TSA debates has been a full-blown campaign to demonize any proposal for risk-based airport security screening as “racial profiling.” In the much-talked about CBS News poll on airport security a few weeks ago, respondents were asked about their views on (1) body-scanning machines and (2) “racial or ethnic profiling”—as if those were the only choices available for American security policy. 

An attack on my long-standing advocacy of risk-based screening by two writers from The Nation included a three-paragraph excerpt from my recent blog post on the subject, followed immediately by a reference to “high-profile charlatans pushing racial profiling as the alternative to TSA pat-downs and body scans.” 

And it’s not only pundits on the left playing this game. Gabriel Schoenfeld of the conservative Hudson Institute attacked the strawman of “religious profiling” as an unacceptable alternative to body scans in an op-ed defending the TSA in The Wall Street Journal.

So I guess it’s time for a careful defense of real profiling—not the caricature that numerous opponents and some inexact supporters portray it as. 

Many security professionals separate “profiling” into two categories. The first, positive profiling, means using techniques such as detailed background checks and other factors to assign certain people to the “low-risk” category and treat them accordingly. 

The TSA itself recently (and rightly) conceded that airline flight crews—both cockpit and cabin—fit into this category, and will no longer have to undergo the demeaning security theater procedures the rest of us must face. Security resources, and taxpayer dollars, are not unlimited. Since we have already decided these pilots are trustworthy enough to fly planes with hundreds of passengers, it isn’t a good use of resources to pat them down or measure their shampoo bottles.

RAND Corporation has advocated positive profiling for many years, and the concept is the basis for a true Trusted Traveler program, in which frequent fliers who volunteer for and pass a stringent background check get a biometric ID card and can thereafter bypass some or all of the regular screening, just like flight crews will soon be able to do. I would also extend the Trusted Traveler concept to those holding federal security clearances. If we can trust someone with nuclear weapons secrets, shouldn’t we trust them to not blow up airliners?

Positive profiling is already in use by Customs & Border Protection (TSA’s sister agency) for people who are frequent border crossers, via at least three voluntary background-check programs: Global Entry for air travelers returning from abroad; Nexus, for frequent visitors to and from Canada; and Sentri, for frequent visitors to and from Mexico. If applied to airport screening, it would allow the TSA to shift resources from people who are not a threat to those who are more likely to be (and not just those trying to board planes, but also those loading baggage and cargo, visitors seeking targets in crowded ticket lobbies, etc.). 

It would also spare a large fraction of air travelers (primarily frequent fliers who voluntarily opt-in) from the wasted time and indignity of current screening practices. This can be an important safety tool because frequent business travelers do an estimated 50% or more of the nation’s flying. Recognizing that not everyone presents an equal threat allows security to focus resources on those that may present more danger.

There are some, including the ACLU, who argue against a Registered Traveler system because they say it will create a new vulnerability as terrorists learn to beat the background checks. Is this possible? Of, course. Anything is possible. We cannot eliminate all risks from flying or driving or anything else in life. But if terrorists are volunteering for FBI-quality background checks, undergoing interviews and credit checks, and ultimately obtaining trusted status then we have dramatically bigger security failures and problems than we imagined. It’s far more likely the terrorists would turn their attention to different, softer targets. 

With positive profiling reducing the number of travelers the TSA has to expend time and money on, the attention then shifts to negative profiling.  When most people hear the term profiling they envision people being grouped or targeted solely based on race or religion. When security professionals use the term negative profiling they mean deciding that a small subset of travelers deserves closer scrutiny due to some combination of background factors, previous travel behavior, and suspicious behavior at the airport itself. 

The TSA already does this type of profiling in a minor way: that’s what the selectee and no-fly lists are all about. We learned of some of these factors in the days after the 9/11 attacks. Buying a one-way ticket at the counter with cash was, and probably still is, something that would get you more attention from security. 

Previous travel history would have flagged the underwear bomber last Christmas since he paid for his ticket in cash, had recently flown out of terrorist haven Yemen, and his suspicious behavior at the airport (that you’d like a trained security guard to catch) reportedly included not having a jacket or any checked luggage despite flying from Amsterdam to Detroit during winter.

It is also important to note that negative profiling is already mandated—by the TSA—for those flying to the United States from the overseas airports it has defined as “extraordinary locations.” While I have not seen a list of those specific airports, both times I’ve flown back to this country from Madrid in recent years, I’ve been interviewed in some detail by employees of a private security company, under contract to the airline in question, as required by TSA’s Aircraft Operator Standard Security Program (AOSSP).

In short, profiling is a legitimate technique for deciding how to allocate security resources. Catching terrorists is tough. Making the TSA pat-down or body-scan every single person on every single U.S. flight (which the current policy calls for by the end of 2011) does not increase the chances they’ll find a terrorist (TSA has never found one). 

Pretending that everyone is equally likely to attack us wastes precious resources on low-risk travelers, which just makes us more vulnerable. Unless, and until, we adopt a risk-based airport screening system (i.e., forms of profiling), the TSA will continue to treat everyone as a potential suicide bomber and Americans will continue to be harassed and groped by TSA’s out-of-control screeners.

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  • ||

    ""The first, positive profiling, means using techniques such as detailed background checks and other factors to assign certain people to the “low-risk” category and treat them accordingly. ""

    So you think every traveler should be subject to background checks? What information do you think would be off the table?

  • MNG||

    +1
    I think this kind of privacy intrusion (looking at arrest, credit, banking, etc., records of people) to be worse than an aggresive pat-down.

    And contrary to RC's contention below that this kind of thing would mean needing less employees it would likely mean just as many but hired paid white collar employees or perhaps more employees (heard an Israeli security consulting guy on the tube the other night who said the more thorough Israeli techniques could not be applied here because it would mean massive hiring).

  • ||

    Any of us (including me) who have concealed weapons permits have already undergone an FBI background check. If the background check for a "get through airport security the same way you can carry a handgun" card worked the same way, I'd do it in a heartbeat. It's not that invasive, and most importantly...it's voluntary. It wouldn't require massive hiring or anything else.

    You seem aggravated that someone might be able to get through security faster than someone else. I'm not trying to be a dick, but could this be your leftist egalitarianism reflex coming into play here? That person A could get to waltz through security while person B can't?

  • MNG||

    It's not that, it's a real privacy concern. I imagine the background check for a firearm permit is less intrusive than what they are talking about here which would surely include banking and credit checks as well as the usual arrest and mental health checks (which draws in the whole medical history).

    I'm not sure what you mean by "voluntary." Submitting to a background check to fly seems no less voluntary than submitting to a body scan. And what would you rather have get out there, a copy of your body scan or your banking/credit/criminal/mental health/medical history?

  • ||

    I see below that you recognized the voluntary part of it. If it acted like a CCW, it would be very convenient. You could choose to be examined, and once cleared, you wouldn't have to deal with security. I can walk into any gun store and walk out with any gun I want, today, without being checked, because I have a CCW. Trusted Traveler could work the same way.

  • ||

    For me, both choices are bad... but having a "trusted travel" card is better in that I don't have to have the same security pat-downs and scans every time I fly.

    But then, I have given up on privacy. All the things that are involved in a background check can be looked up by thousands (millions?) of low to high level functionaries pretty much on a whim.

    In fact, due to a particularly retarded state law, my student workers--who do not handle money or sensitive information, anything really--have to undergo a fairly extensive criminal background check to get a part-time minimum wage job with me. Going through one to breeze through TSA bullshit would be worth it for people who are still expected to travel by air.

  • Matrix||

    I have a secret clearance. It was not very invasive. Basically, answer these questions about you, your family, friends, and other associations. Then I was targetted for further screening, which involved a simple interview with an investigator over my association with foreign nations (college professors and students).

    It was a condition for getting my job, and it was voluntary (I could have always not taken the job). So if a system like this is voluntary, then I see no problem for a "Trusted Traveler Program".

  • Polynikes||

    I guess both of you missed that the Trusted Traveler program would be voluntary. It certainly wouldn't make sense financially or efficiencywise to do that level of screening on everyone.

  • MNG||

    OK, I did miss that part. Then I have no problem with it.

  • Robert Poole||

    As Polynikes correctly notes the "positive profiling" aspect of risk-based security would be completely voluntarily for citizens. It would not be background checks for everyone flying. If you do not want to be part of the Trusted Traveler program and opt-in to the background check, you don't have to. People who only fly once or twice a year probably would not opt-in to a Trusted Traveler program. And if that is the case you would likely fall into the third group of travelers described in the earlier post here - http://reason.com/blog/2010/11.....ed-approac
    "Ordinary travelers—basically everyone else, who would go through metal detector and put carry-ons through 2-D X-ray machines. They would not have to remove shoes or jackets, and could travel with liquids. A small fraction of this group would be subject to random “Selectee”-type screening."

  • ||

    It's not voluntary if the alternative is having your fourth amendment rights violated. A trusted traveler program would only be voluntary if the alternative to not submitting personal information to the government is reasonable.

  • ||

    ""Our proposed Risk Screening System (RSS) would replace the current, flawed Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS).""

    CAPPS isn't voluntary so that which replaces it probably won't be either.

    I have no problem with a voluntary system.

  • ||

    ""They would not have to remove shoes or jackets, and could travel with liquids. A small fraction of this group would be subject to random “Selectee”-type screening."""

    If they are trusted, why do they need a random sample?

    It's like the guy that has the perfect life, then kills his family. Even trusted people carry contraband, and may have intent to cause harm. The bottom line for security is no one can be trusted. Our government put too much faith in trusting PFC Manning with access to documents.

  • ||

    Mr. Poole, beware of being a pawn. Even if government calls it voluntary today, what makes you think they won't change their mind after they system is in place? If they did, they would have people like you to thank for selling it to the people.

    Just sayin.

  • ||

    I just find it astounding that anyone believes that the TSA would handle this with intelligence, when every thing they have done portends arresting people with overdue library books.
    Remember the guy who GOT ON the plane whose own father gave us information, the one way ticket, etcetera?

  • ||

    Of course, going to profiling of any kind would mean that a large fraction of TSA staff would be redundant.

    About all most of them are capable of is staring at a screen or groping passengers, and profiling requires a different (and dare I say higher) skill set that would be beyond a lot of them.

    Since no one within TSA wants to restructure it and lay off a lot of the current schlubs, this ain't gonna happen.

  • ||

    ""Of course, going to profiling of any kind would mean that a large fraction of TSA staff would be redundant.""

    Not really. Just because someone's background check is clean doesn't mean they won't try to carry contraband. The TSA scan are about detecting contraband as much as anything else. Any profiling will be an addition to current methods and will just be another layer of security, it will not replace searches. In the end, you have all of the above, not one or the other.

  • Gary Chartier||

    A far simpler solution is to eliminate the TSA, end the federal role in air travel security, and allow airports and airlines to compete for passengers by offering varied combinations of security and convenience. Let the market decide. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

    http://liberalaw.blogspot.com/.....ravel.html

  • Harry Reid||

    EXTREMIST!! EXTREMIST!!

  • MNG||

    We had a discussion about this the other day. I'm not convinced the market would give us more rational policy here. The wonderful thing about markets is not the rationality they produce, but the responsiveness. Since most people are potentially hysterical and/or awful at evaluating risks I'm betting there would be enormous pressure to have either too lax security or even more intrusive than what you have here...

    In college we read Bureaucracy by von Mises. Iirc he had a brilliant section about why the private sector does most things better than others (profit motive drives discipline) but he also mentioned that there are things that should not be subjected to the profit calculus. One of his specific examples is, iirc, security at a munitions factory or something like that. I think what he was getting at is the relentless cost cutting pressures and responsivness to consumers might not be a good thing in such areas and I think it applies here.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    We had a discussion about this the other day. I'm not convinced the market would give us more rational policy here.

    You mean the market would not come up with a preferred flyer program?

    Since most people are potentially hysterical and/or awful at evaluating risks I'm betting there would be enormous pressure to have either too lax security or even more intrusive than what you have here...

    Depends - what's "too lax" or "too intrusive"? If you can figure out what's "too lax" for you, or "too intrusive" for you, and you ARE the one making the choice between air travel suppliers, what makes YOU think other people would not show similar preferences and simply choose the level of security they feel confortable with?

    The problem with you, MNG, is that YOU ALWAYS think inside the collectivist, one-size-fits-all mindset. What makes YOU think air company (A) will not offer a different, more comprehensive security system for their passengers than air company (B), or (C), or what makes YOU think that people want to pay for (A) and prefer to take their chances with (B) or (C)?

    Your thinking is two-dimensional . . . just like Khan's!

  • ||

    The market did come up with a "Trusted Traveler" system. The TSA killed it by refusing to recognize it.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: SugarFree,

    The market did come up with a "Trusted Traveler" system. The TSA killed it by refusing to recognize it.

    Which means that MNG's trust of Da Gunvermint is misplaced... a little bit.

    Thanks for the link, SF!

  • ||

    No problem. My wife (who travels for work 8-10 times a year) was looking into it when it failed. It was going to be worth $200 a year to breeze through security.

  • Shorter MNG||

    Daddy knows best.

  • ||

    Do you think the TSA will claim jurisdiction over passenger security for sub-orbital and orbital voyages?

  • ||

    Imagine crashing into a landmark at reentry speeds. Space yacht as God Rod.

  • ||

    does not increase the chances they’ll find a terrorist (TSA has never found one).

    Maybe the FBI should send one of the bombers they recruit to the airport so they can be nabbed by TSA to increase their credibility.

  • ||

    Don't give them any ideas, dude.

  • Junior Wilson||

    Comply With Me*
    (With deepest apologies to Sammy Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen & Frank Sinatra)

    Comply with me, before you fly away
    Remove those shoes and take a cruise
    Through my peekaboo X-ray
    Comply with me, I'm your friendly TSA

    Comply with me, you domestic coach class bums
    If you opt out I'll just give a shout
    To my icy-handed chums
    Comply with me, bend over here it comes

    Once I get all up there where your hair is ticklish
    I'll just fish
    Got my wish
    Once I get all up there you'll be squirming like an eel
    You may squeal
    At the feel
    When we're together

    Proctology is such a lovely trade
    I'll show you love with my rubber glove
    Try not to be afraid
    I'd be a perfect gentleman, if you had just obeyed
    Comply with me, I'm GS8 pay grade

    Janet Napolitano says to spread 'em wide
    Have you tried Astro-glide?
    Janet Napolitano knows your clothes are off
    Head aloft
    Turn it and cough
    When we're together

    Don't crack wise or I'll ruin your whole day
    Please don't frown when I pat you down
    It alerts the CIA
    It's perfectly legal practice except at Gitmo Bay
    Comply with me, comply comply
    Comply with me, obey, obey, obey!

    Check out the security risks on that one! Yeah!

  • ||

    Faulty premise is faulty.

    Don't "fix". Abolish.

    If you're too much of a whimpering pussy to get on an airplane without having Big Brother hold your hand and murmur sweet consoling bullshit in your ear, stay home and hide under your bed.

  • ||

    I would not be opposed to well trained, competent teams of security agents observing the passengers in the terminal, looking for telltale behavior. The problem currently is there is the tremendous level of artificially induced "noise" being generated by stress-inducing security theater.

    The external symptoms of nervousness brought on by wearing/carrying a bomb are not significantly different from the aggravation of putting up with self-important idiots wasting your time. Worrying about the quality of the virgins by whom you'll be greeted in Paradise is not much different than worrying about whether you'll make the flight to Buffalo because you're trapped in a security line, watching high school dropouts give Ma Kettle the intense scrutiny she so richly deserves.

  • kinnath||

    A security guy with some customs experience explained to me that everyone looks nervous and suspicious when entering the lines for customs inspections. It's the people that look visibly relieved after clearing customs that they care about. That's why there is a long walk after clearing customs before you are really out of their clutches.

  • ||

    ""It's the people that look visibly relieved after clearing customs that they care about.""

    Like anyone thanks that bullshit is over?

  • ||

    Anyone that thinks the bullshit is over.

  • ||

    Recognizing that not everyone presents an equal threat allows security to focus resources on those that may present more danger.

    Not to mention it allows useful people to be productive rather than fucking around on idle at the airport. I am still looking for the first study to quantify how many millions of man-hours and how much wealth [pronounced foregone tax revenue to you progressives] is squandered by the security theater charade.

    Catching terrorists is tough.

    So is math. The ratio of the TSA budget to the number of terrorists caught has no meaning. Perhaps that should be a clue.

  • James J.B. n.k.a McMillon ||

    The ratio of the TSA budget to the number of terrorists caught has no meaning. Perhaps that should be a clue.


    No. no. no. You have it all wrong. It is working, so we should "invest" more. Or, it isn't working, and we should "invest" more. See!

  • NoStar||

    The idea that profiling is evil and should not be used is asinine.
    Say a man is seen putting a bomb into his carry on and the witnesses describes someone who looks like me, a bald headed skinny white guy. If the TSA refuses to use profiling, the agents will randomly search women with Afros until they find the bomb.

  • ||

    The solution to airplane security is simple. Everyone on the plane gets issued a regulation hard, blunt metal object that can be used as a bludgeoning weapon if necessary (plus it's lemon scented).

  • avsteele||

    Two facts to rebut some of Mr Poole's points:

    There is a good possibility that a pilot has already been responcible for downing a plane purposefully: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EgyptAir_Flight_990

    One of the few 'domestic terror' incidences was perpetrated by an army officer, a major even.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Hood_shooting

    These guys would likely have been permitted to enter whatever 'trusted flier' program Mr Poole is suggesting.

    We can't ensure perfect safety for travelers, and exaggerating the risks from terrorist attacks only serves to make the situation worse. Open eyes and open ears on the part of travelers is the best and also the least intrusive form of security we can reasonably hope for.

  • ||

    Perhaps an easy and effective way of reducing risk is placing posters all over the airport that show passengers kicking ass and says, try it, and die. Passengers will fight back.

  • pmains||

    Yes. But if the pilot wants to take down the plane, he doesn't need nail clippers.

    Also, the idea behind the Trusted Traveler program is these folks are less likely to be terrorists. We can never be 100% sure about anybody.

    Not to mention, Major Hassan is a perfect of example of having "much bigger problems." Many people raised concerns before this -- concerns that should have resulted in him losing his security clearance. Political correctness prevented any sane action from being taken before he went on a shooting rampage.

  • ||

    ""Also, the idea behind the Trusted Traveler program is these folks are less likely to be terrorists. ""

    Americans are less likely to be terrorist. If less likely is what we are shooting for, we can remove the scanners and do pat downs only for non-Americans.

  • Sidd Finch||

    Marvin Webster had this figured out before 9/11. "If some dude is hell bent on getting a bomb on an airplane to strike a blow against the great satan, I think he's more than a match for a fat guy in a polyester blazer making $4.50 an hour."

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePvo-XflGZs

  • ||

    The "Trusted Traveler" program would be just as "voluntary" as the pat-down. It is the allegedly less intrusive alternative to the "standard" procedure.

    I have a hard time calling any requirement that is imposed on me in order to allow me to travel by air as "voluntary." Sorry, but if that's what "voluntary" means, than any and every security measure is voluntary.

  • Matrix||

    This reminds me of an episode of The Simpsons. Lisa was trying to explain to Homer that his logic was faulty with his Bear Patrol in keeping bears away. "Do you see any bears? Bear Patrol is working like a charm."

    She explains that his logic is faulty and holds up a rock and saying "this is a tiger-repellent rock." Homer asks how it works and she says, "it doesn't. It's just a rock!" Homer was confused, and she asked him, "do you see any tigers around?" Homer looks around and then asks if he could buy the rock from her.

    That's the logic here.
    Government: TSA is working as planned.
    Citizen: How do you know that?
    Government: You don't see any more planes being blown up or hijacked, do you?
    Citizen: No...
    Government: So, then TSA is working.
    Citizen: Here's more tax money! Keep me safe!!

  • Matrix||

    and I should add--
    Citizen: Keep scanning women and kids and feeling them up! I don't mind giving up the dignity, privacy, and liberty of others to keep ME safe!

  • Old Mexican||

    "In short, profiling is a legitimate technique for deciding how to allocate security resources. Catching terrorists is tough.

    So tough, in fact, that authorities had to invent a few!

    Unless, and until, we adopt a risk-based airport screening system (i.e., forms of profiling), the TSA will continue to treat everyone as a potential suicide bomber and Americans will continue to be harassed and groped by TSA’s out-of-control screeners.

    Or maybe the US should stop invading and bombing Muslim countries - Hey, there's a thought!!! And is much, much less expensive than playing "Catch me if you can, suckers!"

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    So the 1993 WTC Bombing was in retaliation for what? The Barbary Wars?

  • creech||

    I think they were outraged that Pres. Clinton answered the "boxers or briefs?" question on national tv.

  • Some Guy||

    While I find Old Mexican's point a bit simplistic, I think you might be able to find an example or two of the US bombing Muslim countries between the Barbary Wars and 9/11.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Heroic Mulatto,

    So the 1993 WTC Bombing was in retaliation for what? The Barbary Wars?

    You mean the bombing committed by Saudi terrorists because Uncle Sam kisses King Abdullah's rear sphincter and trampled Muslim holy land with the feet of heathen, non-Muslim soldiers while Uncle Sam bombed Muslim cities in 1992?

    THAT bombing?

    Yeah, totally without reason. Onward, Ho, TSA!

  • Old Mexican||

    Sorry, Al-Qaeda terrorists. Not Saudi terrorists.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    You're equivocating again, OM. unilaterally invading and bombing certain areas of the so-called dar al-Islam doesn't equal participating in a multinational coalition to protect one Muslim-majority country from aggression by another Muslim-majority country.

  • ||

    Maybe Admiral Poindexter is available.

  • ||

    I have both a Nexus and Global Entry classification. The application was entirely online, and primarily asked which foreign countries I had visited, as well as where I had lived over the past (I think) twenty years or so. Then I had to go for an 'interview', which took place in a quonset hut underneath the Ambassador Bridge. They basically asked me the same questions (or something similar) and took a picture and fingerprints. About ten days later I got a card in the mail, and 'presto' I had a Nexus card. It makes crossing the Ambassador Bridge much easier--I get a dedicated car lane, which cuts about an hour out of a commute from Toronto, especially on Sunday afternoons.

    About three months later I applied for Global Entry. That took place entirely online, and I was approved instantly. Now I can bypass all lines at US entry airports, answer the questions on the entry card you are given on a US-bound international flight on a computer kiosk, and walk to a booth with pretty much no line, then out of the airport.

    Now, of course, I don't know what went on behind the scenes, but it was not exactly what I'd call rigorous or privacy-invading. I can say that I was on the Selectee list for about six months about six years ago, for no apparent reason. And at the end the TSA wrote me a letter and denied that I had ever been on the list. Of course, the TSA guys at the airport certainly thought I was at the time.

    Anyway, this is an example of a voluntary 'trusted traveler' program, and it certainly makes my life much easier. Still can't bypass the stupid security screening at airports, however.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    The TSA itself recently (and rightly) conceded that airline flight crews—both cockpit and cabin—fit into this category, and will no longer have to undergo the demeaning security theater procedures the rest of us must face. Security resources, and taxpayer dollars, are not unlimited. Since we have already decided these pilots are trustworthy enough to fly planes with hundreds of passengers, it isn’t a good use of resources to pat them down or measure their shampoo bottles.

    I don't agree. If the people are going to docily accept new acts in Security Theater, everyone should have to suffer through them, from top to bottom. Naturally, our Congresscritters will exempt themselves, to the extent that they lawfully can. Maybe it will help shake people from their state-loving stupor.

    Security theater is ust another line on the list of injuries and usurpations.

  • kbolino||

    Profiling is collectivism. Profiling is the selection of individuals based on how their actions or traits resemble those of others who have committed undesirable acts. It is the presumption of guilt before innocence.

    You might argue that some profiling, like selecting individuals who buy one-way tickets in cash at the counter, is based upon individual actions, and you would be right. But buying a one-way ticket in cash at the counter is not against the law. Some people are just impulsive. But when we subject them to greater scrutiny for perfectly legal actions, we are separating them from others who have obeyed the law, even though no crime has been committed. They are no longer equal before the law; they are no longer presumed innocent until proven guilty.

    You might argue that additional scrutiny is not a punishment, in the sense that someone is not being deprived of their rights to life, liberty, or property, and you would be right. We are all too quick to dismiss the right to pursue happiness out of fear for our own rights. But someone who has flown out of Yemen may simply be Yemeni, and that is no threat to my life, liberty, or property. Perhaps that Yemeni man or woman is trying to experience the great country we all claim America to be. A country where the government does not make arbitrary distinctions among its citizens or interfere with their daily lives. People have committed no wrongs until they take direct action against the rights of others. Yet we will treat them as suspect because of their point of origin.

    This is not the same as the hard collectivism of yesteryear. We're not lynching Yemenis or stoning impulsive people, just subjecting them to more screening. And that may be a compromise you are willing to make. Clearly it is one Mr. Poole is willing to make, and I will grant him that his argument is for good governance, and there is much to be said for that. But since when did libertarians accept that it is better to govern well than to govern least?

  • Ian||

    Positive profiling sounds fine. I wouldn't sign up for it, I feel the screening would be somewhat invasive. I'm against answering questions asked by the government about my life. Less time in airport doesn't seem like a good trade-off but it should be available for others. People who pass these background checks are less likely to be a threat. However not searching them probably causes a slight increases in risk, this is mitigated by the ineffectiveness of the screening. It is almost certainly a good policy.

    They should definitely do thorough negative profiling but not on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, or nationality. They currently have "random" screening and people are targeted for looking Muslim. Moving to negative profiling would probably not change this even if it specifically forbid it. My main concern though is that the language would say "not based on race alone" which would allow it to be a factor in the decision. I worry as well about allowances for vague hunches and "professional" judgment would be allowed. The primary effect of relying on negative profiling instead of invasive scanning and frisks would be to subject "muslim looking" people to the same invasive screening they receive currently and with the same frequency. However it would exempt white people from that screening. Nobody is any worse off but on the whole its less fare.

    Ideally we go back to metal detectors and normal frisks. Liquids and shoes are allowed, people who look like they are from the middle east are no longer selected at higher rates. And we have professionals watch for behavioral indicators esp. lack of jackets on flights to cold places, one-way tickets, cash payments, family concern. And we just accept that this is not risk free.

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