Wednesday, December 01, 2010
TSA profiling may not help catch terrorists after all
by Larry Geller
The TSA is supposedly using profiling methods to identify which among us could be potential terrorists. Dark skin? Beard? You get checked.
Over and over, each time you fly, you get checked.
But of course you’re innocent. You were innocent the first time they harassed you, yet they do it again and again.
Not only is that morally wrong and probably unconstitutional, it probably doesn’t help the TSA catch terrorists. A mathematician has cast doubt on the whole thing:
William Press, a professor of computer science and integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin, now realizes we don’t have to weigh this dilemma at all. Racial profiling, he has concluded, simply doesn’t work. Never mind how you feel about it. The math doesn’t add up.
Plucking out of line most of the vaguely Middle Eastern-looking men at the airport for heightened screening is no more effective at catching terrorists than randomly sampling everyone. It may even be less effective. [Miller-McCune, Hey TSA, Racial Profiling Doesn’t Work, 11/30/2010]
Of course, one thing profiling and intrusive TSA screening does is encourage passivity. Probably few would object to wiping and x-raying luggage to check for explosives, but if passengers accept the restrictions on liquids and the maximally invasive screening and pat-downs, perhaps they’ll accept anything our government does to them.
It works. The local Honolulu TV coverage of “Opt-Out Wednesday” included passengers who agreed all this was necessary for national security.
Mission accomplished, TSA.
So true, but the concept of "passivity" is difficult to understand for many Americans. On one hand they can talk about The Revolutionary War with pride and in the next breath back intrusive TSA screening. If they could connect the two they would be asking would our forefathers act in a passive way when faced with oppressive government acts.