Each time the government uncovers a potential terrorist plot, the question arises: "To profile or not to profile." The Right declares "Most Muslims are not suicide bombers, but most suicide bombers are Muslim," and uses this as the argument for some sort of profiling. Inevitably, the Left decries racial or religious or other profiling as a means to identify potential threats. The argument is made that profiling is an unfair invasion of civil liberties. It is indeed. But it is also effective and efficient in its intended purpose.

Consider a group of 100 Muslims and 200 non Muslims. Suppose among the 100 Muslims, 8 are suicide bombers and of the 200 non Muslims, 2 are suicide bombers. The Right's claim is thus verified. Most Muslims are not bombers, but most bombers are Muslim.

Suppose the government sets a goal to identify 8 of the 10 total bombers, 80%. One way to do this would be to screen 80% of the entire population of 300, or 240. Screen 80 Muslims and 160 non Muslims. You would on average catch 6.4 Muslim bombers and 1.6 non Muslim bombers. (we can deal in parts of bombers - no pun intended - because we are extrapolating to a large population) In total, we catch 8 bombers and screen 240 people to get them, an equal percentage of Muslims and non Muslims.

If however, we screened all 100% of the Muslims we would catch all 8 bombers and would have reached our goal. We have thus, cut the number of screenings from 240 to 100, saved considerable resources, and caught the same number of bombers.

No matter what the actual percentages are, so long as the basic premise holds true that most Muslims are not bombers, but most bombers are Muslim, it will always be more efficient to screen a higher percentage of Muslims over non Muslims.

The real question, therefore, that lies behind the concern, is at what level is it "worth" the extra resources to preserve civil liberties. What equation or formula could there be to determine at what point does adding screeners or screening less efficiently with the same number of people result in a cost that is higher than the benefit of equality?

The answer is not "There is no cost too high." Any objective observer must realize that every day individuals, companies and governments make implicit or explicit calculations of costs  and benefits and define some threshold beyond which additional cost is not worth the additional benefit. Consider Zero Tolerance policies for knives in schools. It's a nice City Council bumper sticker but it is completely disingenuous. There is no such thing. The tolerance may be very very low, but because budgets are limited and there are other demands on resources, the fact is, there is some limit to what is willing to be spent to prevent knives from showing up in schools.

The same principal must apply to profiling. I do not know what the numbers are, but there is some point at which the cost of not profiling is less than the benefit of equality. Liberals must be able to objectively discuss this issue. Ultimately, cries for equality must be supportable within the cost-benefit equation. It's cold hearted, but it's nothing more than the way thousands of decisions are made at all levels every day, by liberals and conservatives alike.

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#### Comment Preferences

• ##### Tip Jar(3+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
edbb, SpamNunn, SciMathGuy
• ##### Ummm...so, you're going to ask people's religion(10+ / 0-)

and have them be honest about it?

You do understand that "Muslim" cuts across all racial categories, don't you?

How does this work again?

"The revolution's just an ethical haircut away..." Billy Bragg

[ Parent ]

• ##### Thanks, granny(4+ / 0-)
Recommended by:

Yes, pray tell, Aglaya, how we know that someone is or is not a Muslim? I know Christian Arabs, black Muslims, Shieks frequently mistaken for Muslims. How about that Orthodox priest the idiot in the South mistook for a "terrorist"?
Seriously profiling is ridiculous and useless. We need our Humint resources to work better obviously (although there is still some doubt as to how specific the father's warning was) and our machinery actually to be able to detect an explosive that was used in a previous attempt 8 YEARS AGO!

One will rarely err if extreme actions be ascribed to vanity, ordinary actions to habit, and mean actions to fear. - Nietzsche

[ Parent ]

• ##### Ooops!(2+ / 0-)
Recommended by:

I mean Sikhs of course...

One will rarely err if extreme actions be ascribed to vanity, ordinary actions to habit, and mean actions to fear. - Nietzsche

[ Parent ]

• ##### Interesting point you make, why couldn't we (1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
Mayken

detect the same explosive that was used in a similiar attempt 8 years ago? I imagine it was cheaper to have us all remove our shoes, so no resources were dedicated to doing just that.

[ Parent ]

• ##### Let's grow up.(2+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
VClib, SciMathGuy

A man named Ahmed who holds a passport showing recent visits to Yemen and Pakistan should get a little more scrutiny in the security screening area than my old white German  grandmother, who has not been out of the country in 30 years.  I have seen my former Senator Bill Bradley be forced to take off his size 15's at Newark Airport, just for purposed of political correctness.  Silly, really.

The good news is that, with profiling, guys named Ahmed will get diverted to shorter screening lines.

Strength of character does not consist solely of having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one's balance in spite of them - Clausewicz

• ##### Sadly, the rain of donuts will begin shortly.(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
VClib

Strength of character does not consist solely of having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one's balance in spite of them - Clausewicz

[ Parent ]

• ##### it should(0+ / 0-)

"A man named Ahmed" is really fucking inviting this. How do I know your old German grandmother is not a Nazi war criminal, after all?

See how easy that one was?

• ##### You had better get that jerking knee(0+ / 0-)

looked at.

Strength of character does not consist solely of having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one's balance in spite of them - Clausewicz

[ Parent ]

• ##### how so?(0+ / 0-)

You had me until Ahmed. Why not Barack Hussein?

• ##### No Baracks here:(0+ / 0-)

Strength of character does not consist solely of having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one's balance in spite of them - Clausewicz

[ Parent ]

• ##### coward(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
SpamNunn

Tom NYC

[ Parent ]

• ##### .(0+ / 0-)

Never wrestle with a pig.  You just get dirty, and it makes the pig happy.

Strength of character does not consist solely of having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one's balance in spite of them - Clausewicz

[ Parent ]

• ##### you're the pig(0+ / 0-)

Smear me, then run and hide.  cowardly pig.

Tom NYC

[ Parent ]

• ##### .(0+ / 0-)

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Strength of character does not consist solely of having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one's balance in spite of them - Clausewicz

[ Parent ]

• ##### in other words...(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
SpamNunn

... you're a gutless coward.

"Strength of character does not consist solely of having powerful feelings... but also requires backing your ridiculous smears with an actual cogent argument"

Disgusting coward.

Tom NYC

[ Parent ]

• ##### [kiss](0+ / 0-)

Strength of character does not consist solely of having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one's balance in spite of them - Clausewicz

[ Parent ]

• ##### Funny(0+ / 0-)

You can post nonsense endlessly, but not put forth a simple cogent argument to back your cowardly smear.  Why?  Because you KNOW you have no such argument.  It simply doesn't exist.  That makes you no different than the average tea-bagging moron.  Congrats.

Tom NYC

[ Parent ]

• ##### What I don't understand is why someone who bought(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
Wee Mama

their ticket with cash and had no luggage was not automatically profiled. After 9/11 wasn't that the one thing that stood out, ticket bought with cash, no luggage, especially since he was on such a long trip. These things are simple to profile and they do not take away anyone's liberties.

• ##### Maybe with all the folks unemployed,(0+ / 0-)

we give a test to check for terrorists, those who pass the test are promised a job with the TSA. It would solve two birds with one stone, employ those out of work, and increase our security at airports.

• ##### Always fun watching Americans defend being bigots(9+ / 0-)

especially under the marketing slogan "objectivity".

• ##### lol - hardly an historical anamoly for our (3+ / 0-)
Recommended by:

country.

"The revolution's just an ethical haircut away..." Billy Bragg

[ Parent ]

• ##### Words like(5+ / 0-)

sensible, pragmatic and moderate are never far behind.

• ##### When someone claims to be objective...(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
Kylopod

... they usually aren't.

The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

[ Parent ]

• ##### Real info, not fearmongering, from Schneier.(8+ / 0-)

Read this article, please. Bruce Schneier is a computer security and crypto expert well known to geeks but maybe not so well known to political types. His is a voice of reason we should listen to and take seriously. Security is his area of expertise. He knows from whence he speaks.

CNN: Is aviation security mostly for show?

The next OneCare Happy Hour will be January 29, 2010.
9/11 was on GW Bush's watch. Duh.

• ##### Saw him on Rachel last nite...(4+ / 0-)

...honestly, this was one of Rachel's best shows, and the segment with him was really good.

"The revolution's just an ethical haircut away..." Billy Bragg

[ Parent ]

• ##### Finally a little sense(0+ / 0-)

I can understand how screeners, who will probably never catch or know anyone who catches a terrorist, might let someone slip by.    But how many muslim parents are there who visit our embassies to alert us to their unstable  offspring get so ignored?  There's some folks who just areen't thinking.

• ##### Ummm....what does "muslim parents...who visit(7+ / 0-)

our embassies to alert us to their unstable offspring" have to do with profiling all "Muslims" (if such a thing were actually possible to do).

You also seem to suggest there are virtual armies of Muslim parents pleading with our embassies to stop their children from being suicide bombers - where's your evidence?

"The revolution's just an ethical haircut away..." Billy Bragg

[ Parent ]

• ##### NO(0+ / 0-)

just the opposite.  A parent alerting a foreign government (known to treat suspects poorly) should be such a rare thing as to alert someone.

• ##### That's three people already who defend profiling(0+ / 0-)

I'm stunned.

[ Parent ]

• ##### I suppose this means that I can suspect(10+ / 0-)

every white, southern guy driving a moving van to be a terrorist aka Timothy McVeigh?

There is no objectivity when it comes to being bigoted or not. We either treat everyone equally or we don't deserve our freedoms.

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

* This was written by Franklin, with quotation marks but almost certainly his original thought, sometime shortly before February 17, 1775

The only thing you get from sitting on the fence is splinters in your ass. My Granddaddy!

• ##### McVeigh was from MI(3+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
SallyCat, ZenTrainer, Mayken

so you'd better include northerners too.

Many financial swindlers are Jewish males - Maddoff, Boesky, Milliken, Rubin, etc., therefore any Jewish male involved in any financial transaction should be subject to intense scrutiny.

Why no, that's not an anti-semitic stereotype - how could you think that? It's just more efficient that way.

Then again, the diarist isn't calling for concentration camps - yet.

Bitte sag mir wer das Märchen vom Erwachsen sein erfand

[ Parent ]

• ##### See...I always forget who I'm supposed to hate(3+ / 0-)
Recommended by:

today. The whole bigot thing is waaay over my level of understanding. [/snark

Easier just to love and trust my neighbors and pray for peace on earth.

The only thing you get from sitting on the fence is splinters in your ass. My Granddaddy!

[ Parent ]

• ##### You have to be carefully taught(3+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
SallyCat, Eryk, Mayken

Bitte sag mir wer das Märchen vom Erwachsen sein erfand

[ Parent ]

• ##### Most serial killers are white(0+ / 0-)

I remember that police were actually surprised when they caught the Beltway killers and found they were black.

[ Parent ]

• ##### Don't we now profile those who purchase lots(0+ / 0-)

of fertilizer? If not we should.

• ##### According to CNN(3+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
grannyhelen, ZenTrainer, Mayken

it was the CIA who dropped the ball here. They held onto the info on this guy.

Also, Ben Stein this evening said he didn't believe President Obama was taking this incident seriously, because of the shirt the president was wearing. Unreal.

• ##### Ben Stein ceased being credible a while back...(4+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
SallyCat, A Citizen, ZenTrainer, Mayken

...I think he just sez stuff for reactions at this point.

"The revolution's just an ethical haircut away..." Billy Bragg

[ Parent ]

• ##### He lost me at "Expelled."(4+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
SallyCat, grannyhelen, Eryk, Mayken

Judaism's mainstream (Reform, Conservative and most Orthodox) considers Darwin completely compatible with Bereshith. (Genesis) All Judaism, except for extreme Haredi sects, has been against the literal reading of the TaNaKh for 5,000 years. In "Expelled," Stein espouses a view of scripture not only at odds with Judaism, but consonant with Judaism's historical opponents in the fanatic fringes of Christianity. When Ben Stein did what he did by agreeing to narrate "Expelled," he became dead to me.

It is sad, because I met him on "Win Ben Stein's Money" and had a very interesting conversation with him, where he actually was respectful of my views as I was of his, and I came away with it invigorated and intellectually stimulated. He is not being intellectually honest by embracing willful ignorance.

The next OneCare Happy Hour will be January 29, 2010.
9/11 was on GW Bush's watch. Duh.

[ Parent ]

...magical thinking abounds in the most unexpected places, I guess.

"The revolution's just an ethical haircut away..." Billy Bragg

[ Parent ]

• ##### Expelled was a documentary film(2+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
grannyhelen, Mayken

on "Intelligent Design" and its so-called "suppression," and the supposed "Crying need to teach the controversy! Won't somebody think of THE CHILDREN?"

I don't think he had anything to do with any book that was written by the same name, but he narrated the documentary.

The next OneCare Happy Hour will be January 29, 2010.
9/11 was on GW Bush's watch. Duh.

[ Parent ]

• ##### Ben Stein(0+ / 0-)

I don't know if he cares about the age of the Earth. It's just politically useful red meat for the GOP base. The Christian right loves to try to speak for Judaism, and he's helping them do it.

The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

[ Parent ]

• ##### he's always seemed(0+ / 0-)

smart on TV...

i mean i disagree with a lot of what he says - but he's never come across as blatantly dumb to me.

• ##### He certainly appeared smart(0+ / 0-)

on Win Ben Stein's Money. Or I should say knowledgeable.

Interestingly, one of the subjects he was consistently ignorant about was the Old Testament.

[ Parent ]

• ##### Maybe Ben Stein is in his comedy mode(0+ / 0-)

You never can tell, with that deadpan of his.

[ Parent ]

• ##### I wonder what Gavin DeBecker (0+ / 0-)

has to say about this? He is a security expert of another sort. A different kind than Bruce Schneier, who I also respect.

Census workers = "enumerator's." Enumerator's? Are we taking the census or making a James Cameron movie?

• ##### Your scenario(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
grannyhelen

You're scenario has 8% of the Muslim sample being suicide bombers, which is extremely far-fetched. It would also be pretty easy for Muslim suicide bombers to pose as Christians. Or if you're going to screen Arabs, they might assume an identity of a non-Arab from the Mediterannean. Are we then going to start screening Greeks, Italians and Jews? After all, they could be Muslim Arabs only posing as Catholic Italians, Orthodox Greeks or Jews.

The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

Regardless of our views of terrorism, flying, religion, or race, we need to be able to back away far enough to apply risk-benefit analysis to the problem of people trying to blow up aircraft.

I have an unpopular view - I think we should be willing to go into a room in an airport, and - under observation - remove our clothes, put our clothes and carry-ons (except maybe for a book) into a bag, give the bag to a TSA ogre, have the book inspected, put on a paper coverall, and get on the flight.

Intrusive? Yep. Worthwhile? I don't know - no analysis has been done. Perfect? Absolutely not (the book could still have explosives in it, and we could still have awful things crammed up our butts).

One thing I do know for sure, though - we're trying to balance the goal (absolute safety) with other goals (privacy, freedom, loss of time). We're never going to find a balance, though, if we refuse to really look at it.

If not blocked by the GOP, 2010 will arrive shortly. - Larry Webster, Lexington Herald-Leader