Permission to Profile

Mark Nuckols
Posted: Apr 13, 2014 12:01 AM
Permission to Profile

In a rare triumph for common sense in Washington, it is being reported that the Justice Department intends to allow “tactical leeway” to the FBI to use ethnic profiling. This is welcome news for the security of our country.

Profiling and stereotyping are a fact of life. Liberals vehemently argue that our law enforcement agencies should be prohibited from employing any form of profiling, arguing that you can’t tell anything significant about a potential terrorist just based on their religion, ethnicity or nationality. As is often the case, liberals manage to deny reality and embrace hypocrisy in one fell swoop.

Liberals quite liberally use profiling and stereotyping for their own purposes, but they would never admit it. But I experienced profiling daily when I was a student at Georgetown University Law Center. Georgetown is an elite school that prides itself on “diversity,” but I didn’t see many students there like myself. I come from a small village in rural southside Virginia, never finished high school and only have a distance learning college undergraduate degree.

The fact that I am broadly read, self- educated, write well, and outperformed most of my classmates on exams meant little to my more privileged classmates and professors with tony social pedigrees. To them I was still just an ignorant redneck, and my expression of conservative views was usually dismissed with a sneer and putdowns along the lines of “well, you’re just a dumb hick, so shut up.”

Well, it’s true that many stereotypes have some basis in fact. It’s true that most people from my hometown haven’t read Proust (a boring French guy who is nonetheless the platinum standard if you want to display sophistication). And they shamefully don’t know the difference between Pouilly-Fume and Pouilly-Fuisse. But they’re generally decent law abiding and patriotic Americans, which in elite educational institutions makes them de facto “bad” people.

My own philosophy is that stereotypes have some limited value, if used properly, and are one of the ways we make sense of a complicated world. I do assume someone with a diploma from Harvard is smarter than someone without a high school degree, as my classmates did. But I also use his stereotype as nothing more than a starting point, and sometimes people confound my initial impressions based on stereotyping. Unfortunately, at Georgetown, there is a presumption that if you’re from small-town middle America, you’re a hick and nothing will change that judgment.

Now, nobody argues that all young Muslim men are terrorists. But in the last decade and a half, most terrorist acts committed against America (and Europe) have been committed by young Muslim men. They weren’t committed by African-Americans, or Mormons, or Koreans. The 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the suicide bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in 2000, the 9-11 attacks of 2001, and the London bombings of 2006, among many other worldwide terrorist actions, were not undertaken by white, Protestant grannies.

If we want to protect our country from determined terrorists who want to destroy America, we need to be on constant guard. Now, for liberals, the suggestion that the threat is more likely than not to come from someone who fits a certain profile is proof that you don’t understand “the Other.”

Well, right now, dedicated young male Islamicist fanatics who come from or receive training in Pakistan or Somalia are in fact a grave threat to the United States. From a pure statistical point of view, some of our surveillance should and must be devoted to people who fit this profile. It is not an infringement of anyone’s civil liberties, and as all Americans even suspected terrorists enjoy a presumption of innocence in a court of law.

My concern is that if a terrorist attack of sufficient scale ever does succeed, not just our safety and security will be at risk, but also the precious liberties we enjoy. I would much prefer limited, and judicious, profiling to prevent another terrorist attack on American soil to denying reality and pretending that we don’t have some notion as to the profile of likely terrorists.

And for those offended by the commonsense notion of profiling, I would suggest that instead of seeking to undermine American security, they begin to ask themselves, why is it that persons of a specific profile seem to be involved repeatedly in attempts to murder and maim innocent people? In the meantime, we should be glad that the Obama administration at least occasionally can recognize reality, and in this instance is willing to give the FBI the “tactical leeway” it needs to combat the scourge of terrorism.