An article in theHuffington Post outlines the methodology used in airport screening by personnel at Ben Gurion Airport, a methodology that depends in large part on observation and questioning of departing travelers. The screening process starts with an x-ray of the trunk and underbody scan on entering vehicles, and all luggage is placed through a pressure chamber to set off any explosives, but the principle methodology concentrates on a sophisticated, low-tech, assessment of traveler’s moods, destination, and other factors.
"Our local police -- they know who a lot of these people are. They are afraid to do anything about it because they don't want to be accused of profiling," the Republican Candidate for President said on Fox News on Monday. Trump pointed to how Israel used profiling and "done an unbelievable job."
We have non-discrimination on the basis of race and creed written into our constitution, but we all discriminate all of the time, and some of the discrimination is for good.
As an example, assessment of the likelihood that any individual has a certain medical condition frequently factors race into the equation. Some diseases are much more common in one racial group than another. Tay-Sachs disease is seen almost entirely in Jews, and not just Jews but Ashkenazi Jews. Screening for it in Vietnames or even Sephardic Jews would be less than economical. Tuberculosis and a variety of systemic fungal diseases are more common in those of non-European ancestry. The relatively lower incidence in those of European descent probably relates to the fact that the disease organism "jumped species" in Europe and has been there much longer than the rest of the world so that Europeans have evolved some resistance.
Systemic Lupus is more common in African Americans than whites, probably because it is an autoimmune disease and the antigen that it confuses with an invader is more common in Black Americans.
Epidemiology teaches us that the prevalence of a disease n the population has an impact on the strategy used to detect it. The ideal test would be both sensitive – detect everyone with the disease – and, specific – pick up no one who doesn’t have the disease.
Another concept that needs to be mentioned is the predictive value of a test, which is a function of sensitivity, specificity and prevalence of the condition being tested for. A simple example might be that at the height of an influenza epidemic, when half of the people in the waiting room have the flu, the simple question, “How are you feeling?” would be highly sensitive (100%), and have a 50% specificity. At other times it would be a really lousy test.
A bit of graffiti from a bathroom wall in Vietnam read (cleaned up for the general public), “Half of the women in Vietnam have T.B.. Half have V.D., so, only offer to buy a drink for bar girls that cough.”
The humor here, of course is based on the fact that T.B. and V.D. are not mutually exclusive. However, one might influence the other. That possibility would require further study.
An article in AL Monitor was written by a person who was never individually stopped by Israeli guards at the check-points between Arab and Jewish areas, but because she was riding one day in a cab being driven by an Arab man they were pulled over, questioned and detained for some period of time. The man’s name and his residence prompted the stop. Other Arabs told the writer that this happened to them on a daily basis, and the line of cars was long at some times of the day.
The writer, Akiva Eldar, is of the opinion that the preferential stopping of Arab Israelis produces little security and prompts hostility, and quotes Donald Harris’s opinion in support.
“David Harris, a University of Toledo law professor considered one of the world’s leading authorities on racial screening, holds that the use of racial profiling cannot contribute to maintaining public order, reducing crime and drug dealing or preventing terror attacks. According to Harris, racial and ethnic affiliation are very weak indicators for predicting a person’s behavior and threat level. Among other data, Harris cites statistics according to which the use of racial profiling in the war on drugs and crime in the United States, where the targets are mostly black and Hispanic citizens, did not contribute to a drop in drug offenses, but rather to the social alienation of members of these minority groups. According to Harris, the same is true of the profiling at airports, where the targets are Arabs and Muslims.”
In none of the articles is there mention of the incidence of drug dealers in the neighborhoods where young men are being stopped, or the relative percentages among racial groups. If all you stop are black and Hispanic young men you may think that all of the drug activity is related to those racial/ethnic groups.
However, the data is readily available and it shows that the percentage of whites who sell drugs is actually higher than the percentage of blacks, while the number of arrests for drug sales have gone up for blacks. The reason is felt to be that drug sales in black neighborhoods tend to take place out of doors, and white sales occur indoors.
This chart from the Brookings Institute shows that arrests of blacks for drug sales and possession have gone up while arrests for property and violent crimes have gone down.
Has anyone looked at the airport screening techniques in Israel to see how they compare in value to the screening procedures at checkpoints? Is there any evidence that using racial profiling actually stops more terrorists than it produces?
We pride ourselves, as do the French, on not officially discriminating along racial/ethnic/cultural lines, yet we still have homegrown terrorists. Have the expressions of hatred toward those who are different by ordinary citizens who do not have the constraints of those in law enforcement and the justice system produced terrorists?
We don’t know the epidemiology of terror because, unlike medicine where racial profiling is done to help the target (patient), its use by police and airport security is done to potentially punish the subject. So, we don’t know the value of racial profiling.
It should be noted, that the personnel at Ben Gurion airport are looking at much more than ethnicity; they look at mood, behavior, travel destination and other factors that may identify someone intent on carrying out a terrorist act. The government of Israel does not contract out to an independent agency to do the screening, and that looks like a good thing.
The last time I flew no one asked me how I felt, where I was going, what my business was when I arrived there, or any of a number of questions that may have seemed pertinent.
I have had to remove my shoes and belt, empty my carry-on, or submit to x-ray while a person in a turban or Arab dress was not stopped, all in the interest of being fair and impartial. I have no problem with being stopped and searched, but it should be for some reason other than being the twelfth person in line.
I don’t agree with Donald Trump's call for profiling, because he is clearly pandering to racists when he says we need to profile, but we need a better plan. I think we need to know what radicalized the man who set the bombs in New York and New Jersey, if possible. The family claims that they have been discriminated against by the police. Someone called the police about noise when the family fried chicken store was visited by the police. Was it about noise, or was the caller racist? Did constant taunts by those around him about his religion or ways drive the young man to violent acts?
Taunts are protected under freedom of speech - otherwise Donald Trump could not talk the way he does - and the, bar for hate speech is consequently high, but there needs to be real investigation into the causes of radicalization, understanding that sometimes, terrorists don’t fit in a mold.
Look at Timothy McVeigh.