CNN National Security Analyst: Trump’s Muslim Profiling Idea Is “Unconstitutional And Would Be Ineffective”
Peter Bergen: Profiling “Would Be A Tremendous Waste Of Resources” And Law Enforcement Should “Act On Intelligence About People Who May Be Doing Bad Things”
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From the June 20 edition of CNN’s CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello:
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CAROL COSTELLO (HOST): So let's bring in CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen who has done extensive studies on extremism in America and outside this country. Peter, would profiling work?
PETER BERGEN: Well, like a lot of Trump proposals this proposal is vague, unconstitutional, and would be ineffective. What does profiling mean? I mean there are the people carrying out these attacks are, generally speaking -- lethal terrorist attacks -- are American citizens, so the First Amendment is the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the right to not have unreasonable searches and warrants, I think it would run into a lot of constitutional challenges. And then in practice what would it look like? Every police department should just sort of search Muslims randomly when the number of Muslims involved in these attacks is a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny percentage of the population? And we have seen court cases in New York, Carol, where essentially the New York Police Department had to settle cases where there was policemen going into mosques and the like. They didn't admit fault, but they settled these cases and paid the plaintiffs' costs, suggesting that the courts would take a dim view of other efforts that are similar.
COSTELLO: Here is the other thing, George Washington University did an extensive study on extremism in America. It determined there is no one profile of an ISIS sympathizer. It also points out that 38 percent of those charged with were converts to Islam. So how would profiling stop them?
BERGEN: I don't think it would. I mean, you know, it would be a tremendous waste of resources. The thing is not to profile people. The thing is to act on intelligence about people who may be doing bad things, and the FBI doesn't get too hung up on your motivations. What they're looking for is your actions. So, for instance, it seems to be a no-brainer, if you've been the subject of some kind of FBI terrorist inquiry, if you're suddenly buying semi-automatic weapons, that that should be flagged to law enforcement at a minimum and perhaps even be barred, and as we see on the Hill today, those kinds of ideas are being voted on. But it's quite possible they'll fail, unfortunately.
COSTELLO: I think that people want easy answers to this problem. They want someone to give them the solution. Tell us why that's kind of not possible in this situation.
BERGEN: And they want an easy answer to why people do these things, and if you look at Omar Mateen in Orlando, clearly he was a very troubled individual and, yes, Islamist militant ideology had some role to play but there were a lot of other things in play. So you can’t wave a magic wand over these kinds of problems, but I do think that you can bring some common sense to bear, which is in several of the cases we've seen in the United States of lethal terrorist attacks, the perpetrator had been investigated in some shape or form by the FBI and then perfectly legally went out and bought semi-automatic weapons before the attack. It seems sensible that we should end that.