Gary S. Becker, a professor of economics and sociology at the University of Chicago and a 1992 Nobel Prize winner, cannot be accused of “racism.” After all, he supports liberalizing immigration laws for educated professionals from around the world, especially India and China. But his warning, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last December, that the United States should restrict entry of people from countries “that have produced many terrorists, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan,” raised many liberal eyebrows. Anticipating this, Professor Becker wrote, “My attitude may be dismissed as religious profiling, but intelligent and fact-based profiling is essential in the war against terror.”
In a sane world, this would be a bland, factual statement; but those who rule today’s America suffer from a form of insanity unknown to history.
In the 2000 presidential campaign, Al Gore called profiling “a serious problem . . . [t]hat runs counter to what the United States is all about.” His opponent, George W. Bush, concurred: “That’s just flat wrong.” Less than two years after September 11, in June 2003, the Bush administration ordered a broad ban on “racial and ethnic profiling” at all 70 federal law-enforcement agencies, making the previously existing ban on profiling even more stringent. Guidelines issued by the Department of Justice directly affected some 120,000 law-enforcement officers at the FBI, the DEA, the Department of Homeland Security, the BATF, the Coast Guard, and other agencies. “Religious or ethnic or racial stereotyping is simply not good policing,” said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Ralph Boyd. “We want to make sure it doesn’t happen, even once.”
The guidelines said that authorities may subject certain groups to greater scrutiny if there is specific and “trustworthy” information that such people are preparing to mount a terrorist attack. Specifically, Middle Eastern men might draw greater attention at airports, but only if the government discovered a plot by Al Qaeda or some similar group to mount an attack.
America’s front-line defenders were placed in a quandary. Of course, the rules are discretely violated by some officers, mainly at passport and customs checkpoints, who care more about doing their jobs well than doing them “right.” Ahmed Ressam was stopped in December 1999 by a Customs Service agent as he tried to enter the United States from Canada, even though the agent had no specific information giving him cause to suspect the traveler. Prima facie, it was a classic case of profiling that should have gotten the officer fired. It turned out that Ressam was a terrorist with over 100 pounds of powerful explosives in his car trunk, to be used in blowing up the Los Angeles International Airport.
In August 2001, a Middle Eastern man was prevented from entering America at Orlando International Airport because customs officer Jose Melendez-Perez did the right thing, not the bureaucratically mandated thing, turning away the would-be 20th hijacker, who was supposed to be on Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania. Perhaps the lack of muscle on that team of terrorists allowed the brave passengers to overcome them; but Melendez-Perez acted at great personal risk. His colleagues and supervisors told him, “You can’t do this. This guy is an Arab ethnic. You’re going to get into trouble because you’re trying to refuse a Saudi.”
Melendez-Perez replied, “I don’t care. This guy’s a bad guy. I can see it in his eyes.” Former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman reminded an audience in Washington last fall that Melendez-Perez did not get a promotion or any recognition: “Do you think he is doing any better than the 19 of his time-serving, unaccountable colleagues? Don’t think any bit of it.”
The aversion to profiling is a symptom—minor, but telling—of the current Western pathology. Law enforcers in other parts of the world pay no heed to the dictates of “sensitivity” and antidiscriminationism. Arabs profile other Arabs; Indians profile Pakistanis; Japanese profile Chinese; and everyone profiles Africans.
Israel profiles everyone entering and exiting the country—frankly, unabashedly, all the time. And well she should. In 1986, a Palestinian terrorist, Nezar Hindawi, tried to blow up an Israeli airliner by sending his pregnant Irish girlfriend on board with a powerful bomb he concealed in her luggage. El Al’s screeners in London profiled a young pregnant woman traveling alone as suspicious, gave her a thorough search, and found the bomb of which she had been blissfully unaware.
Deliberately curtailing due scrutiny of people who look like Muslims and whose names sound Muslim (in the name of sensitivity and antidiscriminationism) is a crime against the rest of us. Not all Muslims are terrorists, although—according to a recent Daily Telegraph poll—one third of those living in the West have some degree of sympathy for them. For some years now, all terrorists of concern to America’s national security and to the quality of life of her citizens have been Muslim. The one percent of the U.S. population who are Muslims have been responsible for over 90 percent of the terrorist offenses and serious threats in the country since September 11. A young Muslim man is literally tens of thousands of times more likely to carry out a terrorist attack in the United States than an Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, or Orthodox Christian; a Jew; a Hindu; or a Buddhist.
Membership in a group is a valid pointer in assuming and judging unobserved behavior of an individual, especially in the absence of specific information about that individual’s background. To suggest otherwise is neither moral nor sane. Profiling is not “good” or “bad” policing; it is just policing.
Spying on Americans in America is a different, and more complex, matter.
In a long article published December 15, 2005, the New York Times disclosed that, soon after the September 11 attacks,
President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying.
Citing unnamed government officials, the paper revealed that, under a presidential order signed in 2002, the NSA has monitored the international telephone calls and e-mail messages of potential terror suspects.
A remarkable feature of the 3,800-word article, which focused on the legal, constitutional, and operational issues implicit in the case, was its failure to explore the identity of those “Americans and others inside the United States” who have been subjected to NSA surveillance. This failure created the impression that just about any “American” may be subjected to such unwarranted and possibly illegal intrusion. The context of the article implied that most or all of those targeted were Muslims, of course, but that was not stated. The ensuing controversy was presented by the mass media to the nation through the inflammatory headline “Bush authorized spying on Americans.”
The unwillingness of the Times to disclose the exact identity of the NSA eavesdropping subjects is reminiscent of its refusal to disclose the religious identity of the tens of thousands who wreaked havoc in dozens of French suburbs in November 2005. The Times routinely referred to the “youths,” or “rioters,” or “angry immigrants.” That the rioting immigrant youths were Muslims, overwhelmingly so, was either omitted or treated as incidental to the story. The same squeamishness to disclose the identity of rioters was replicated all over the Western world.
In both cases, the mainstream media were guilty of misconstruing reality for reasons rooted in their ideological prejudices and political preferences.
Within America, glossing over the surveillance targets’ identity had two objectives. First, it presents President Bush as an out-of-control autocrat whose hoods may be eavesdropping on any one of us at any time. Now, Mr. Bush is guilty of many things, and he and Bill Clinton may be among the worst presidents in a century, but it is silly to suggest, as Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter did just before Christmas, “that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator.”
Second, it implies that a Muslim who has become a naturalized American citizen is so thoroughly and irrevocably “American” that no hyphenated designation or qualifier is called for.
Abroad, concealing the rioters’ identity fits in with the liberal worldview that rejects the notion that faith can be a prime motivating factor in human affairs, or that importing Muslim immigrants may be, in any way, disadvantageous for the host country. The elite class saw the French rioters’ shout of “Allahu akbar!” as a mere idiosyncrasy that would be cured if M. Chirac gave those “youths” more jobs, more dark-skinned TV anchors, and, of course, lots of “affirmative action” in employment and education.
The Muslim spokesmen in the United States were deeply offended by the disclosure of NSA security. Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, director of outreach for Al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, called the surveillance another example of unwarranted activity—“both unwarranted from the standpoint of spying on Muslims who are only trying to observe their rituals and unwarranted in terms of not having proper judicial review.” Mukit Hossain, trustee of the All Dulles Area Muslims Society in Sterling, said the government “is harassing the immigrants and citizens” but has not found one terrorist.
Mr. Hossain is wrong. Had it not been for what he calls the harassment of “immigrants and citizens,” Brooklyn Bridge might no longer be standing. Iyman Faris, the only named “American” target of the NSA’s secret warrantless wiretap program, was sentenced in October 2003 to 20 years for providing “material support and resources” to Islamic terrorists. He pleaded guilty to helping plan Al Qaeda attacks in the United States. Faris planned to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge by cutting its suspension cables and tried to buy equipment for the attack while appearing to be a law-abiding immigrant.
Faris is every bit as much an American as Messrs. Hossain and Abdul-Malik are. He led a double life and plotted attacks “here in his adopted homeland,” as John Ashcroft put it. “Adopted,” indeed: Only months after becoming a U.S. citizen, Faris established links to Al Qaeda and traveled from his native Pakistan to Afghanistan to meet Osama bin Laden and take orders.
Our awareness of the many failures of the Bush administration should not make us instinctively inclined to censure the President’s conduct. Legal experts point out that he has the constitutional authority to acquire foreign intelligence without a warrant or any other type of judicial blessing. The December 27, 2005, New York Times reports:
The courts have acknowledged this authority, and numerous administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have espoused the same view. The purpose here is not to detect crime, or to build criminal prosecutions—areas where the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirements are applicable—but to identify and prevent armed attacks on American interests at home and abroad.
The legal and constitutional dilemma of whether it is right to spy on “Americans” within the United States without a court warrant is worthy of debate in principle. It is false and unnecessary under the circumstances mentioned above. Radical solutions are needed for radical challenges, and they do exist.
When all people engaged in Islamic activism are excluded from America, there will be no need for any such domestic surveillance. We do not need any legislation to protect the right to privacy of those who attend mosques; we need a law that will treat any naturalized citizen’s or resident alien’s known or suspected adherence to an Islamic world outlook as excludable—on political, rather than “religious,” grounds. All Americans—real Americans, that is, and not those who falsely take the oath but continue to support or preach jihad and sharia—will be spared the worry about Mr. Bush listening in to their phone conversations if Islamic activism is treated as grounds for both the loss of acquired U.S. citizenship and deportation.
Among some two-to-three million Muslims in the United States, there are sufficient numbers of terrorist sympathizers and active assets to justify the expenditure of some $300 billion annually in homeland security. That money would not need to be spent if America had been prudent enough to devise a sane immigration policy back in the days of Lyndon Johnson. The tangible cost of the presence of each Muslim man, woman, and child to the American taxpayer is at least $100,000 each year. The cost of the general unpleasantness associated with the terrorist threat and its impact on the quality of our lives is, of course, incalculable.
This situation is untenable and needs to be reversed. Common sense on profiling and supervision would be a rather useful first step.