7/22/2005

Just plain common sense

When our national security is on the line, "racial profiling" — or more precisely, threat profiling based on race, religion or nationality — is justified. Targeted intelligence-gathering at mosques and in local Muslim communities, for example, makes perfect sense when we are at war with Islamic extremists. Yet, last week, the FBI came under fire for questioning Muslims in Seattle about possible terrorist ties. Members of a local mosque complained to Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., who called for a congressional investigation of the FBI's innocuous tactics. The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington accused the agency of "ethnic profiling."

But where else are federal agents supposed to turn for help in uncovering terrorist plots by Islamic fanatics: Buddhist temples? Knights of Columbus meetings? Amish neighborhoods?

Some might argue that profiling is so offensive to fundamental American values that it ought to be prohibited, even if the prohibition jeopardizes our safety. Yet many of the ethnic activists and civil-liberties groups who object most strenuously to the use of racial, ethnic, religious and nationality classifications during war support the use of similar classifications to ensure "diversity" or "parity" in peacetime. The civil-rights hypocrites have never met a "compelling government interest" for using racial, ethnicity or nationality classifications they didn't like, except when that compelling interest happens to be the nation's very survival.

In the wake of 9/11, opponents of profiling have shifted away from arguing against it because it is "racist" and now claim that it endangers security because it is a drain on resources and damages relations with ethnic and religious minorities, thereby hampering intelligence-gathering. These assertions are cleverly fine-tuned to appeal to post-9/11 sensibilities, but they are unfounded and disingenuous. The fact that al-Qaeda is using some non-Arab recruits does not render profiling moot. As long as we have open borders, Osama bin Laden will continue to send Middle East terrorists here by land, sea and air. Profiling is just one discretionary investigative tool among many.

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