by Joshua Holland
The other day I made fun of a very unserious Ed Koch calling for racial profiling based on the "hundreds of millions" of Islamic terrorists that apparently inhabit his feverish mind.
Today, there's some serious analysis of Islamic terrorism in the Washington Post. And with it comes a clear conclusion: racial profiling is a direct threat to our national security -- it can get Americans killed in terror attacks. Let's not be equivocal about it.
Here's Bruce Hoffman, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the U.S. Military Academy's Combating Terrorism Center, writing about "al Qaeda's new strategy":
Al-Qaeda is covetously seeking recruits from non-Muslim countries who can be easily deployed for attacks in the West. The group's leaders see people like these -- especially converts to Islam whose appearances and names would not arouse the same scrutiny that persons from Islamic countries might -- as the ultimate fifth column. Citizens of countries that participate in the U.S. visa-waiver program are especially prized because they can move freely between Western countries and blend easily into these societies.
Al-Qaeda has become increasingly adept at using the Internet to locate these would-be terrorists and to feed them propaganda. During the past 18 months, American and British intelligence officials have said, well over 100 individuals from such countries have graduated from terrorist training camps in Pakistan and have been sent West to undertake terrorist operations.
And here's Harvard's Jessica Stern, discussing "5 myths about who becomes a terrorist":
After all, we have some idea of what he'll be like: young, socially alienated and deeply religious. And he'll come from a country like Afghanistan, Algeria, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen. (Under new Transportation Security Administration rules announced last weekend, people bearing passports from these 14 countries will undergo special scrutiny before boarding a plane.)
Or will he? What if he comes from Northern Virginia, like the five young men who were arrested in Pakistan on Dec. 8 and who have been accused of planning "terrorist activities," according to Pakistani newspaper reports? The bottom line is that we can no longer assume that terrorists will come from any particular country or fit any particular profile. The more we learn about what makes people vulnerable to recruitment by terrorist organizations, the less any of the old generalizations hold up.
Al Qaeda's leadership is not dumb; they know security agencies are eying dusky young Muslim men from a handful of countries. They're adapting their tactics, and we're still stuck on our clichés. Hoffman:
... Al-Qaeda is shrewdly opportunistic. It constantly monitors our defenses in an effort to identify new gaps and opportunities that can be exploited. Its operatives track our congressional hearings, think-tank analyses and media reports, all of which provide strategic intelligence. By coupling this information with surveillance efforts, the movement has overcome many of the security measures we have put in its path....
But while al-Qaeda is finding new ways to exploit our weaknesses, we are stuck in a pattern of belated responses, rather than anticipating its moves and developing preemptive strategies.
The message to those who favor racial profiling is pretty clear: you're in league with al Qaeda whether you know it or not; getting your way means putting more lives in danger. You are truly the "useful idiots" of the "War on Terror."