Counterterrorism and Racial Profiling

I was dismayed to read yesterday in Newsday that House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King "has endorsed requiring people of 'Middle Eastern and South Asian' descent to undergo additional security checks because of their ethnicity and religion" in airports. This sort of ethnic profiling is racist, ineffective, and counterproductive.


Allowing unwarranted scrutiny of any brown-skinned person would be a waste of time and energy. Take me for instance. As a Puerto Rican, I am frequently confused for someone of Middle Eastern descent and asked for identification when traveling. I have never posed a threat to anyone and have begun to resent this intrusion on my privacy.


Profiling like this is also a waste of scarce resources. It's important to remember that not all terrorists look "Middle Eastern." Many of the recent arrests in Europe involved home-grown terrorists and converts, who were not of Middle Eastern origin. These plotters were not caught through further screening but rather solid investigative work. The lesson to be learned here is that our counter-terrorism resources should go to improved intelligence and law enforcement, not racial- or religious-based screening.


On this issue, I stand with NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly (formerly head for the U.S. Customs Service) who called the practice "nuts" and "ineffective." Mr. King should retract his statement and work instead on finding practical and real solutions to protecting our homeland rather than calling for an ineffective, discriminatory practice that would lull us into a false of security.


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