July 28, 2005

Searching for suicide bombers.

Here's a NYT op-ed that makes a compelling argument for a very specific kind of profiling:
[C]ommuters need to be most aware of young men praying to Allah and smelling like flower water. Law enforcement knows this, and so should you. According to a January 2004 handout, the Department of Homeland Security advises United States border authorities to look out for certain "suicide bomber indicators." They include a "shaved head or short haircut. A short haircut or recently shaved beard or moustache may be evident by differences in skin complexion on the head or face. May smell of herbal or flower water (most likely flower water), as they may have sprayed perfume on themselves, their clothing, and weapons to prepare for Paradise." Suspects may have been seen "praying fervently, giving the appearance of whispering to someone. Recent suicide bombers have raised their hands in the air just before the explosion to prevent the destruction of their fingerprints. They have also placed identity cards in their shoes because they want to be praised and recognized as martyrs."
The op-ed writer, Paul Sperry, says that once you're on the train and see someone like this, it will be too late. It's necessary for the police to stop the man from boarding the train.

Currently, the official search procedure is to randomly select one person out of five -- the old as well as the young, females as much as males. Actually, I find it hard to believe that they aren't also noticing men with recently shaved beards and smelling of flower water. But isn't it better not to mention they are?

9 comments:

Goesh said...

I wonder how many more London insurgents are out there? They aren't doing nearly as well as the their brother insurgents in Iraq are, or Egypt for that matter. Freedom fighters/insurgents the world over must hold them in scorn for the low body count they produced.

Mark the Pundit said...

I get angry when I see stories that say something like "a confidential intelligence source cited cellphone chatter as being high, indicating possible preparations for an attack."

Then, after the London bombings, intelligence officials are dumbfounded as to why there was no chatter leading up to the attack.

DirtCrashr said...

This describes the behavior of most passengers on the Sam-Trans 7-F bus headed up the Peninsula to San Francisco, women included.

Bruce Hayden said...

One great thing about the police, as compared to TSA screeners, is that they go with their instincts, and then paper this over if called to account.

So, while the police are likely to look twice at this sort of profile, TSA screeners won't. Neither, of course is allowed to, but the police will cheat. Which, in this case, is all for the good.

Charles said...

Ann, it doesn't matter if this is published or not. That would be "profiling" and so some will be skipped to avoid the appearance of singling out Muslim males between 18 and 30 with backpacks, shaved heads and faces who are praying constantly trying to build up their courage. The ACLU would have a field day if the cops rounded up the guys who fit this, then sorted them out, and oh by the way prevented a few suicide bombs along the way.

Ann Althouse said...

Charles: The reason it matters is that it tells the terrorist how to avoid fitting the profile! And because being overt about following the profile would upset people. It would also create more legal problems (not that there is no solution to those problems).

Pogo said...

It can't be stressed often enough: the Constitution is not a suicide pact. It is dangerous and foolish to demand that our side abide by The Queensbury Rules, while their side follows no such guide, and relies on our very observance of such rules for their advantage. More, they consider us weak and stupid for doing so, and that we deserve to be hurt for that reason alone.

How people could wake up of 9/11 and roll over and fall back asleep so soon thereafter is still a source of amazement to me.

Charles said...

Ann, I am not entirely sure it matters to them about fitting a profile. Run a couple decoys through - and they have plenty of useful idiots, then the real guy. If a decoy is picked up cry "Racism, profiling!" and shut it off. IF the religion is that critical, past the point of brainwashing, then the suicide bomber MUST follow certain conventions to get into heaven. It's part of the required ritual. They know it, so do we, but are we smart enough to do it anyway and say the heck with stupidity about PC-ness?

Bruce Hayden said...

What I am in favor of is racial / ethnic profiling for extra screening to bias sampling, not replace it. So, if you are searching 10% on average, up the young adult middle easterners, esp., apparently, smelling of perfume or flower water, to, say 25%, and drop the overall average for everyone else to, say, 8-9%. I would suggest that you will get a significant increase in safety.

And yes, racial profiling is a moving target. But realistically, not a lot of 70 year old grandmothers are going to pick up suicide bombing or the like as a pasttime. In short, the terrorists only have so far that they can go with changing their apparent democraphics.