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Dec 30, 2009
This term is commonly used in a derogatory sense when describing police actions against members of a racial minority, purely because of their racial membership. WordNet(r) 2.0 defines profiling as follows:
Recording a person's behavior and analyzing psychological characteristics in order to PREDICT or assess their ability in a certain sphere or to identify a particular group of people. (Emphasis on PREDICT is mine.)
Profiling, by this definition, is used by all police forces of every stripe to help solve crimes, i.e., find the perpetrator of crimes already committed. If I am walking down the street and a policeman stops me and asks where I've just come from because he was told that a man matching my description just robbed a convenience store, that action is considered legitimate and I have no problem with it as long as it is done professionally and without causing me any unnecessary harm in the process.
We have depended upon profiling (descriptions) for trying to apprehend criminals since public policing began. Frequently, the public unrealistically expects the police to PREVENT these crimes but they are rarely able to accomplish this. Which brings me to the new reality, terrorism.
I think it is safe to say that most would-be-victims of terrorism are less concerned with identifying, catching and prosecuting the perpetrators or their organizers AFTER their crimes have been committed, than preventing them in the first place. The TSA continues to react to tactics used by terrorists. Terrorist organizations are not stupid so they devise new and different tactics and by definition will always stay one fatal step ahead of any tactically based "defense".
Acting swiftly, intelligently and comprehensively on known and strongly suspected information is the way to prevent these disasters. Even then they will not be 100% effective but the results will be better than the methods used today which are a big expense to tax payers and major inconvenience to ALL travelers. Intelligent use of profiling (the WordNet definition) is the way to improve this situation. If it is legitimate to use after the crime to deliver "justice" for the guilty, then why not use it to PREVENT the greater injustice to the innocent before the crime?
"Political Correctness" has become a practical obstacle to protecting the innocent. Is it time for JUSTICE BEFORE THE CRIME to take precedence over political correctness in the fight against terrorism? I think so.