Profiling is a Bad Idea. Very, Very Bad.
Over at National Review, John J. Miller complains about being searched in an airport and deprived of his screwdriver. He is tired of the petty searches and the refusal to profile in airport security.
As much as I like the folks at National Review and as much as I like to agree with them, profiling is one of the dumbest ideas that has ever lasted this long. Not because of all the liberal “it smells of racism,” “how dare you make an educated guess at who is and who isn’t a terrorist” reasons to oppose terrorism. I think profiling is dumb because I can’t figure out how it would work.
Couldn’t a half-thinking terrorist beat a profile? All unconventional war uses unpredictability and surprise. Terrorists aren’t going to do things the same way next time and they are going to do the unexpected. Only searching guys that have “direct from the mountains and deserts of the Middle East” stamped on their paper work just isn’t going to cut it.
When missionaries tried to sneak behind the Iron Curtain, they found traveling in couples effective because they could ask about scenic routes and guards assumed they were on a honeymoon and didn’t search as hard. Drug smugglers have long used children’s ice cream cones and babies diapers in the hope that those won’t be suspected and searched.
Randomness can’t be planned against. Searching the old lady may seem like a waste of time and we may catch the first old lady terrorist. We can only succeed if we expect the unexpected.
Of course, we should stop all the folks who look like terrorists--but they aren't the only ones who should be spot checked.