Random Searches: A Profile In Stupidity

The recent suicide bombings and misfirings in London have Americans growing more anxious about security and debating pre-emptive measures. For New York City, which has a certain horrific event seared into its collective consciousness, this is not an academic exercise. As a result, it has instituted searches, albeit random, on its massive subway system.

It didn’t take long for the chattering class to get on the case. Where there are searches, there could also be profiling. Riding while Muslim, as it were. The media and civil libertarians have been re-asking a familiar – and seemingly rhetorical — question: Is profiling ever permissible outside actuarial charts?

Secretary of Transportation Norman “ACLU Mole” Mineta notwithstanding, the correct answer is “YES.” An excellent example would be the context conveniently provided by the war on terrorism. In fact, when we stop asking this question, we will have made progress. We would be stupid as a society at war to discard any would-be weapon, even a marginal one — and that’s what profiling is when it comes to non-airline transportation.

But it’s less than marginal when it’s RANDOM. It’s an ineffective, counterproductive misallocation of inadequate, transit-security resources. As if these terrorist atrocities were perpetrated at random. Here a grandmother from DesMoines, there a politician on a presidential ticket. You just never know.

Well, absent a radical change in martyrdom volunteers and who gets their ticket punched for Paradise via mass murder, we do know. They are 20-and-30-something Middle Eastern or East African males with backpacks. (And if the M.O. changes, it will probably be the Chechnyan model: young, Muslim suicide bomberettes.) Can’t we acknowledge such an ipso facto reality and then, without turning into racial, ethnic and religious vigilantes, make use of that?

Growing up in Philadelphia, I’m familiar with subways and the logistical nightmare presented by any kind of search policy. But if I’m a passenger – a human being not a debating point or a legal nuance – I want some odds, even long ones, in my favor. This is the worst of times for politically correct tunnel vision.

If this wholly imperfect approach, with potential scenarios for insensitivity, alienates those in the Muslim and civil liberties communities, so be it. For what it’s worth, I’m pretty alienated myself that I would have to furtively glance around and calculate who’s likely commuting to work and who seems destined for a bonus round of virgins.

After London, no American can rationally expect the U.S. to keep dodging the soft-target, suicide-bomber bullet. Nor can we assume there aren’t terrorist cells already in this country. Nor should be assume that they may be comprised mostly of guys from, say, Sweden or Lichtenstein.

Having said all that, the best form of security for mass transit is still intelligence gathering. Without that, we’re pretty much relegated to a Maginot Line with surveillance cameras.

This calls for a major ratcheting up of Muslim cooperation and insider- information help about awakening “sleeper” cells. If it means taking one for the home team (THIS country), as a trade-off for perceived betrayal within the Muslim community, then so be it again. Mutating cells need a network for support, safe harbor and “handler” scouts, sometimes referred to as MEWC’s (Middle Easterners With Cameras).

The best reaction for America’s loyal, law-abiding Muslims, which is virtually all Muslims in America, is to loudly denounce Islamaniacs in drumbeat fashion and rat out any terrorists in their – OUR – midst. That sort of mass murder-and-mayhem-preventing intelligence is the best defense against London-like attacks that are likely being planned even as we search — randomly or not.

It’s also the best response to any affronts associated with profiling.

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