Fox's "kind of misleading and, arguably, dangerous" profiling advocacy

››› ››› TERRY KREPEL & BROOKE OBIE

In the wake of the Christmas Day attempt to detonate a bomb on a Northwest Airlines flight, numerous Fox News hosts, contributors, and guests have called for profiling of Muslims by airport security personnel. But several national security experts have termed such policies ineffective, with Bush administration secretary of homeland security Michael Chertoff stating that "relying on preconceptions or stereotypes is actually kind of misleading and, arguably, dangerous."

Fox News figures demand profiling of Muslims

Kilmeade: "[I]f you're a 20- to 30-year-old Islamic male, even if you have no evil intentions, expect to be delayed. We have to profile." On the January 4 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said, "[N]inety percent of these terrorists are men, Islamic men between 20 and 30. Why are we pretending that all of us should get equal training [sic]? Shouldn't we just tell -- if you're a 20- to 30-year-old Islamic male, even if you have no evil intentions, expect to be delayed. We have to profile."

McInerney: "If you are an 18- to 28-year-old Muslim man, then you should be strip-searched." On the January 2 edition of America's News HQ, Fox News contributor retired Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney said that "we have to use profiling, and I mean be very serious and harsh about the profiling. If you are an 18- to 28-year-old Muslim man, then you should be strip-searched. And if we don't do that, there's a very high probability we're going to lose an airliner." After host Julie Banderas noted that profiling would be "essentially singling out people because of a religious group," McInerney responded, "If that age group doesn't like it, then what are they doing to stop this jihad against the West?

Coulter: Obama should "start looking for passengers who look like the last three dozen terrorists to attack airplanes." On the December 30 edition of Glenn Beck, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter said that President Obama "is in a position even stronger than George Bush to do what ought to be done and that is to start looking for passengers who look like the last three dozen terrorists to attack airplanes. He could engage in -- whatever you want to call it -- racial profiling, ethnic profiling, looking for young Muslim males, foreign-born Muslim males."

Gallagher: "There should be a separate line to scrutinize anybody with the name Abdul or Ahmed or Mohammed." On the December 27 edition of Fox & Friends, radio host and Fox News contributor Mike Gallagher said, "There should be a separate line to scrutinize anybody with the name Abdul or Ahmed or Mohammed." After Richard Socarides, former adviser to President Clinton, noted Timothy McVeigh 1995 bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City, Gallagher responded, "We're not at war with Tim McVeighs, Richard. We're at war with Muslim extremists named Abdul and Ahmed." Similarly, on the December 28 edition of Fox & Friends, Gallagher said that "Muslims" and "anyone named Abdul or Mohammed or Ahmed" should face "an extra degree of security," adding: "Let's take them and put them in a room and make sure they don't have explosives sewn into their underwear." Gallagher also said, "We should take anybody who's a known Muslim and put them in a separate line. Call it a VIP line."

Emerson: Complaints "by the, quote, Islamic civil rights groups" meant government "stopped basically profiling." Author Steven Emerson said on the December 26 edition of Fox & Friends, "Remember, there have been so many complaints about, quote, profiling by the, quote, Islamic civil rights groups that they stopped basically profiling. And that basically led to not putting this guy onto a terrorist watch list."

But security experts say such profiling is ineffective and potentially "dangerous"

Former Bush secretary of Homeland Security Chertoff: Profiling for terrorists is "misleading and, arguably, dangerous." On the January 3 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, Michael Chertoff, former secretary of Homeland Security during the Bush administration, stated that "relying on preconceptions or stereotypes is actually kind of misleading, and, arguably, dangerous":

DAVID GREGORY (host): But I want to press Secretary Chertoff on this point, because that's what the counterterror officials will say -- it's more than a contributing factor. We know who 90 percent of these terrorists are. There may be other examples of women being used and whatnot, but Islamic males between the age of 20 and 30 make up roughly 90 percent of that profile. Is that an inappropriate or appropriate way for law enforcement to be targeting individuals?

CHERTOFF: I think relying on preconceptions or stereotypes is actually kind of misleading and, arguably, dangerous. Obviously, you --

GREGORY: So that's wrong, that profile is wrong?

CHERTOFF: Correct.

GREGORY: Okay.

CHERTOFF: And what I would say is you want to look at things like where has the person traveled to, where have they spent time, what has their behavior been? But recognize -- one of the things that al Qaeda has done is deliberately try to recruit people who don't fit the stereotype, who are Western in background or appearance. Look at the guy like Adam Gadahn, who grew up in California, who is one of the senior-level al Qaeda operatives but does not fit the normal prejudice about what an extremist looks like. [retrieved from the Nexis database]

Similarly, on the December 29 edition of National Public Radio's All Things Considered, Chertoff stated that "the danger and the foolishness of profiling" is that "people's conception of what a potential terrorist looks like often doesn't match reality":

ROBERT SIEGEL (host): How should the U.S. reconcile reasonable, ethical restraints on profiling with some obvious facts that this sort of thing has been done by Muslim men, typically, and also of a certain age. One could focus pretty heavily on Muslim men under 40 and come up with lots of the people who are posing threats.

CHERTOFF: Actually, Robert, I'm going to argue that this case illustrates the danger and the foolishness of profiling because people's conception of what a potential terrorist looks like often doesn't match reality. In this case we had a Nigerian, for example, not a person from the Middle East or from South Asia. If you look at the airline plot of 2006, two of the plotters were a married couple that were going to get on a plane with a young baby. The terrorists understand that the more they vary the kind of operative they use, the more likely they're going to be able to exploit prejudices if we allow those prejudices to guide the way we conduct our investigation.

SIEGEL: Your objection to profiling is not just as an ethical matter, it's a point of efficacy also. You're saying it doesn't work.

CHERTOFF: I think it's not only problematic from civil rights standpoint, but frankly, I think it winds up not being terribly effective. [retrieved from the Nexis database]

International security service exec Steve Koenig: "There's no place for racial profiling in a modern society." A January 1 McClatchy News reporting that "As some politicians step up calls for increased racial or ethnic profiling to thwart terrorism, most experts say such profiling is inefficient and unfair" quoted Steve Koenig, chief executive of international security services firm SCG International, as saying "There's no place for racial profiling in a modern society. ... We have Indonesian terrorists. We have Chechen terrorists. There are Irish terrorists. You cannot apply that sort of methodology to solving this problem."

Aviation security expert Sheldon Jacobson reportedly "said racial profiling itself is ineffective." The McClatchy News article also reported that aviation security modeling and risk management specialist and University of Illinois engineering professor Sheldon Jacobson "said racial profiling itself is ineffective," and quoted him saying: "The fact of the matter is, we're dealing with a moving target. If we keep chasing the risks that we've already seen, we will ultimately miss the risk that is going to be coming toward us."

Statistical model for examining rare events finds profiling ineffective. According to a February 2, 2009, New York Times article, "Too great a dependence on profiling passengers by ethnicity or nationality is an ineffective way to conduct airport screening to catch terrorists, according to a statistical model for examining rare events." The article quoted the report's author, University of Texas computational biologist and computer scientist Dr. William H. Press, who said: "We have been told that strong profiling will somehow find and siphon off the worst offenders and we'll be safe. It's not true. The math does not support that."

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