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Profiling may not be good for screening

Reader comment on item: A Call for Intelligent Profiling[ by Frederick Schauer]

Submitted by Ronald Fox (United States), Jan 2, 2004 at 17:11

Profiling may be good for catching perpetrators, but it is obviously of limited value in preventing preplanned acts of terrorism.

Profiling can be a positive danger. Imagine this scenario. Airport screeners use Middle Eastern extraction as a prime factor. Terrorists are aware of this, and also wish to target a flight. The most logical course for them is to send a non-Middle Eastern terrorist (of which there will be more in the future), and to send several middle-Eastern decoys along on the same flight. The inspectors will busily turn their resources to search the Middle Easterners, and the active terrorist will have a lower-than-chance probability of being caught.

Terrorists can profile as well as police. It would be a tremendous disadvantage to depend primarily on racial profiling on flight screening. I don't disagree on principle with the use of profiling, but it would be very dangerous if it made us drop our guard.
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