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Airport passenger profiling -- not so simple

A new poll shows 70 percent of Americans support profiling that singles out terrorist suspects for extra screening. What's the best way to profile?

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Must the entire flying public in America be subject to stepped-up screening: full-body image scanners or aggressive pat downs? What if security officials reserved that more intense search for terrorist suspects?

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Nov. 23 shows that 70 percent of Americans support “profiling people, using available information about passengers in order to determine who gets selected for extra security screening at airports.”

Profiling – famous in Israel – is often discussed as an alternative to the all-passenger strategy in the United States.

It’s important to distinguish between smart profiling, and the ineffective kind. Tempting as it may be, profiling based on race, religion, gender, and even country is not efficient.

Male, Muslim, and Arab, for instance, is simply too broad a category to be of much use. Those characteristics may accurately identify a person, but they don’t predict behavior. The vast majority of people who fit that description are not terrorists.


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