Profiling Terrorists

Write a paper about profiling terrorists during airport screenings. Since the 9/11 hijackers all fit the same profile—Middle Eastern men, ages 20-40—many people wonder why we insist on searching people who do not fit the profile of these terrorists.

For example, I recently flew with my 71-year-old mother and 75-year-old stepfather. My stepfather’s mental state (advanced Alzheimer’s) was such that he could not even follow the airport screener’s simple directions to remove his shoes and extend his arms. These two were obviously no threat, yet we search people like them daily. Meanwhile, lines get longer and longer at airports.

Consider this anecdote taken from Insight Magazine and published on the Internet on April 1, 2002:

In February, an 86-year-old man wearing cowboy boots, a Western hat and a bolo tie triggered a metal detector while passing through an airport-security checkpoint in Phoenix. The detained man turned out to be retired Gen. Joe Foss, one of the most highly decorated U.S. war veterans, and the object that triggered the machine was the Medal of Honor that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had presented to Foss for his spectacular bravery during World War II.

Forced by airport officials to remove articles of clothing three times, Foss, who hardly fits any profile of a terrorist or suicidal hijacker, was forced to endure the humiliation of his Medal of Honor being taken from him during the security interrogations. Foss arguably attracted unwarrantedly prolonged security attention, in the process diverting the focus of guards from other passengers who might in fact have fit terrorist profiles.

In your writing assignment, explain why we are not profiling terrorists. Describe alternatives to profiling terrorists , including the idea of a trusted traveler program. What do you think is the best way to screen for terrorists at airports?

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