Is Racial And Ethnic Profiling Viable?

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After the attacks on 11 September 2001, airport scrutiny moved to the top of the American government's priorities. Consequently, the heated debate on which methods would undeniably boost security became just as imperative and fittingly controversial. Whereas many insist racial and ethnic profiling is ineffective in American airports, profiling increases security by limiting terrorists to less effective strategies while maintaining constitutional rights.

Terrorist groups typically prefer recruits that are accessible such as those of their own race and belief; racial and ethnic profiling would counter these strategies by forcing terrorists to hire possibly problematic Western recruits and thereby lowering the odds of a disastrous attack. Profiling not only has the purpose of protecting the passengers but also of countering the obvious terrorist strategies. Profiling should be used because if the airports' first best strategy is implemented, the terrorists are forced to 'adopt their second-best strategy, which already lowers the odds of a catastrophic loss” (Epstein); the best strategy is for the terrorist groups to hire recruits that share their race and belief because they are the most likely to be faithful to the group's cause. In a hypothetical situation, if a Muslim group from Iran wants to recruit someone to blow up a plane, a Muslim person would be the easiest to hire and trust to execute the job.

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However, with profiling, the terrorists are pressured to hire a non-Muslim person or someone who won't get profiled in the airport to hijack and explode an airplane, and this causes the group to bare various risks. 'Finding a Westerner who believes in the culture of willing death for a higher cause is hard, meaning the terrorists run the risk of hiring someone' (Epstein) who will turn over valuable evidence to the government, and now they are left with a complicated ordeal. To improve the situation, the United States can capitalize on those odds by dispatching government spies who could investigate terrorist groups allowing them to gain valuable access to nthe group's information. As can be seen, using profiling in airport security is a simple yet effective strategy to hamper the terrorists' attacks and to change their strategies. Preventing terrorism is of utmost importance to the American government; therefore, using racial and ethnic profiling is constitutional and justified. The Fourth Amendment states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated...” (“Fourth Amendment”). While it's arguable that the “right of the people to be secure” could be considered violated by pat-downs and body scanners, these efforts could hardly be called “unreasonable”. The word 'unreasonable' implies that certain searches are constitutional, and in the case of preventing terrorism, 'it is futile for anyone to insist that it is illegitimate for the government to block efforts to blow up planes' (Epson). While it is understandable for travelers not to want to be searched arbitrarily, they also have to comprehend airport profiling is a constitutional and safe method.

Though the evidence shows that racial profiling is an effective tool for the United States to combat terrorism, there is still a question of its implementation. The employment of the Israeli system, the most successful and advanced in racial profiling in airport security, has been criticized by John Pistole, the head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) by saying that ''It's not as straightforward as in Israel where they have a lot of experience with how to separate' suspects' (Epstein). On the contrary, these claims are flawed; indeed, Israel is a much smaller country with only 50 daily flights (Epstein) and consolidating profiling is simpler, but it can still be integrated into the United States if started from the most dangerous locations and expanding from there. Ultimately, the implementation of the various aspects used in the Israeli profiling system is viable.

Pistole's argument does not consider that not only can the Israeli system be partially applied, but also that the American airline security is in desperate need for improvement, especially in comparison to the Israeli's. As said by the Federal Aviation Administration whistle-blower Bogdan Dzakovic, 'We could breach security 80 percent to 90 percent of the time with the very little problem before September 11. Today, it's no different' ('How Should the United States Respond to Terrorism?'). In other words, airline security has some troubling issues. A recent example of this failure is when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a twenty-three-old Nigerian man, brought hidden plastic explosives abroad via his underwear, which had gone undiscovered during the passenger security checks ('Airport Security'). This case provides a clear illustration of the problem: even after the 9/11 attacks, security continues to be feeble. Like the Israelis, the security must be comprised of educated Americans who can screen possible terrorists. And to do so funding has to be put in salaries and education, similar to how the middle-eastern country educates its screeners (“Profiling would help”). With the ability to reduce the odds of catastrophe and to protect the fliers, racial and ethnic profiling has extensive potential in the United States. Fully securing an airport might ultimately be an impossible endeavor, and there are currently technological develops to help provide even more security than there ever was before. Until then, it is of the utmost importance for the United States to use what is available and what that means right now is racial and ethnic profiling.

Works Cited

  1. 'Airport Security.' Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2015. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Accessed 13 Feb. 2019.
  2. Epstein, Richard A. “Profiling Should Be Used as a Security Strategy.” US Airport Security, edited by Margaret Haerens and Lynn M. Zott, Greenhaven Press, 2013. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Accessed 29 Jan. 2019. Originally published as “Better to Profile than to Pat Down,”, 13 Dec. 2010.
  3. LII Staff. “Fourth Amendment.” LII / Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, 10 Oct. 2017,
  4. 'Preface to 'How Should the United States Respond to Terrorism?'.' National Security, edited by Helen Cothran, Greenhaven Press, 2004. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Accessed 13 Feb. 2019.
  5. “Profiling would help police our airports.” Washington Times [Washington, DC], 26 Nov. 2010, p. B02. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Accessed 29 Jan. 2019.
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Is Racial And Ethnic Profiling Viable? (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from
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