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Can Racial Profiling Be Viewed As Discrimination?

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  • Can Racial Profiling Be Viewed As Discrimination?

    It seems that all of the suspects in the terrorist plot that was foiled Aug / 10 / 06 in the UK are of middle east descent.
    Their names are : Ali Abdula Ahmed, Ali Cossor, Ali Shazad Khuram, Hussain Nabeel,Hussain Tanvir, Hussain Umair, Islam Umar, Kayani Waseem, Khan Assan Abdullah, Khan Waheed Arafat, Khalid Osman Adam, Patel Abdul Muneem, Raud Tayib, Saddique Muhammed Usman, Sarwar Assad, Savant Ibrahim, Tariq Amin Asmin, Uddin Shamin Mohammed, and Zaman Waheed.
    There is already a public outcry claiming dicrimination coming from the Islamic world.
    And they predict that the arrests of 24 British-born Muslims, accused of plotting to destroy 10 aircrafts over the Atlantic, will result in harsher treatment for Muslims in the United States and extra scrutiny of Muslims at U.S. airports - often referred to as racial profiling."I feel sad and disappointed for what is happening," said Sultan Kumisbayer, 27, a Muslim from Kazakhstan. "I'm frustrated with it. Those who kill innocent people I don't consider brothers.
    The non-radical muslims are dead against the actions of the extremists and the senseless killings that they are plotting and conducting.
    "When will the Muslim community in this country accept an absolute, undeniable, total truth: that Islamic terrorism is their problem?" wrote John Stevens, former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, in a Sunday newspaper.
    All of the suspects in the thwarted terrorist's attempts to blow up 10 airplanes last week are obviously of middle east ethnic origin. If airport security teams focus on people of middle east descent in order to save innocent lives, how can that be conceived as discrimination? I agree with what L'E stated in previous discussions in regards to "branding" an entire race, but the statistics cant be overlooked or ignored. The sad thing here is that the innocent become cast into the same category as the criminals.There is going to be a lot of controversy regarding security techniques in the near future, but I consider it unavoidable considering the current state of affairs that the world is in. How can proper security checks be carried out without the risk of discrimination allegations?
    Last edited by voilodian ghagnasdiak; 08-14-2006, 08:43 AM.

  • #2
    Okay, a society, a country has the right to defend itself.
    Okay, currently the main threat seems to be coming from Muslim radicals. For the time being.
    And "profiling" (although I don't fully understand what is done exactly) may be an adequate measure - temporarily. The "branding" we spoke of was closer to tattooing or actually marking people.
    Security services will be gathering information and putting it together to get profiles this anyway, whether we agree or not. The question really is: what happens when the threat is over? Will a person who "accidently" behaves somewhat inexplicably (most artists for instance buy all sorts of strange stuff a normal cop would never understand what for! Or, somebody may have a similar name, you know how difficult the transcription is of Ghadafi, El Kai.da, Al Quayda. etc) and who happens to belong to a group (religion, country of orgin, trained pilot etc) stay forever in those files? In those computers? And who will have access to them in two decades or even less? What will an insurance company do that comes across such a file with many, many details? Refuse to insure a person, because of certain information? Will an employer be able to hold it against a person that he or she belonged to a Bessarabian Student Circle (while Bessarabia has nothing to do with Arabia of course)?Can/will the stuff be passed on to a "friendly" regime that uses torture when dealing with its subjects??? You know how many "friendly regimes" the West, and the USA in particular, kept alive for decades that weren't exactly throwing cotton at those they perceived as "dissidents": the Somozas in Nicaragua, the Shah of Iran (which is why we got Chomeini!), Pinochet, Papa Doc in Haiti, and so on; the list is very long and includes Saddam himself!
    Last edited by L'Etranger; 08-14-2006, 09:03 AM.
    Google ergo sum


    • #3
      I think the biggest concern at present is racial profiling by physial appearance. People that have the same physical characteristics or wear the same type of apparel that a person from the middle east wears are going to be under a far greater degree of scrutiny at airport security checks than per say a white anglo saxon person would be. My point is that racial profiling stereotypes all mid-east muslims as terrorists until proven innocent. It is a sad situation, but also an unavoidable one. I just hope that the good, non extremist, muslims have the patience and understanding to be able to accept this treatment until there is an end to these troubled times.


      • #4
        Originally posted by voilodian ghagnasdiak
        All of the suspects in the thwarted terrorist's attempts to blow up 10 airplanes last week are obviously of middle east ethnic origin.
        No, actually. One of them is a caucasian convert to Islam. Interestingly, the way the media over here are focussing on him is probably more racist than the racial profiling you are talking about. There seems to be a sort of 'he's been got at by the evil Other' mentality about their coverage of him. For example, The Daily Mirror had a front page article by some ex-girlfriend they had dredged up saying what a normal bloke he used to be...


        • #5
          Hnmph. To "discriminate" has one meaning (among others) of "discerning one thing from another". So can we tell someone's intent and mindset from looking at them? No. This is racial bias. Call a shovel a shovel. Bigotry. One friend of mine is a bald-headed India guy ('cause now we can't say "Indian" without massive confusion). Paul is a Christian preacher, as are his parents. I've been with him when he's been harangued as a Hari Krishna, Pakistani 7-11 clerk, and other untrue things. Just because I'm 6' 6" does not mean I play basketball, nor like it.

          But such racial profiling does have some merit, in that it defines we really can tell one shade of brown from another. That's about all, but gosh, we CAN do so! A Samoan is different from a Swede, unless of course they naturalized to either contry from Tonga or Chad or some place else.

          Long has the need or validity of identification by appearance alone passed from usefulness. As circumcision became standardized in Western medicine, so departed the Jew/not-Jew identification trait. Now it is more a matter of choice, and usually that of the physician or mother. Most people do not decide freely if they have or want the use of a foreskin at age eight days. The whole thing is a chimera nowadays, extinct in utilty but kept around like it had some value or worth.

          What is needed is an identification system of some value. Perhaps a multiple code indicating actual skin color (say values of 1-100, albino to full dose of melanin), eye color (without contact lenses) and so forth. We could codify all these into a bar code or something, index that with spiritual, intellectual, and educational values, turn it into a bar code or something and stamp it on people's foreheads.

          Otherwise, it's just an exercise in insults.
          ... just another sailor on the seas of Fate, dogpaddling desperately ...


          • #6
            John E. Wrote
            No, actually. One of them is a caucasian convert to Islam.

            There has been no information along those lines in the media over here John thanks. You're right, he's a white dude. Rollovers converting into Islamic extremists are a scary concept, especially considering that Don Stewart-Whyte became suicidal-for-the-cause in the short span of one year. I would have to think that he was pissed off at more than just other peoples religious beliefs.

            Miqque Wrote
            Perhaps a multiple code indicating actual skin color (say values of 1-100, albino to full dose of melanin), eye color (without contact lenses) and so forth. We could codify all these into a bar code or something, index that with spiritual, intellectual, and educational values, turn it into a bar code or something and stamp it on people's foreheads.
            Otherwise, it's just an exercise in insults.
            I will take that as a definite yes Miqque. I have friends from the mid-east also and do not wish to discriminate against them. The question here is; considering that 23 out of the 24 people arrested in last weeks bungled terrorist attempt (96%) were non caucasian males, of middle east origin, can airport security teams afford not to focus on aforementioned ethnic groups in fear of being racially offensive?


            • #7
              In my youth, end of the sixties, begining of the seventies, i was with hairs, jeans, vest in toile, bag from a pseudo american suplus withe the peace signe inscribed on. In short, the uniform of a part of the youths of the time ......

              French police was very nerous about ultra left .... . When there were identity controls uin the tube me and my friends controlled, and objects of body search. Was it discrimination ?

              But we were very angry about it ...........


              • #8
                This question is not meant to be humorous.
                Morgan, when you say full body search do you mean body cavity search, or just being pocket "frisked". When law enforcement agents conduct body cavity searches on ones person it creates an instantaneous realisation within oneself as to how insignificant and miniscule we are on a governmental level.


                • #9
                  The question is not only meant to be humorous !

                  Happily, just pocket frisked and control along legs and arms after removing jacket as before going in a secutity zone ...... no boby cavity search .........

                  But very humiliating .......

                  I understand reaction of young of our suburbs submitted to this sort of search .....

                  And policemen forget to be polite .....


                  • #10
                    There was an interesting discussion about this on Newsnight last night where a senior Asian police officer was complining that racial profiling would introduce a new offence: 'travelling whilst Asian'.

                    More to the point, though, was when the interviewer asked the pro-profiling panel member "Do you really think that these terrorists are so stupid that they won't be turning up with their beards shaved and swigging alcohol in order to beat the profiling?" She didn't really get an answer to that one.


                    • #11
                      For a voice from the gutter, here's what News of the World thinks.

                      I actually think we shouldn't go down that route: it will just add fuel to the flames, and there is of course this new phenomenon of the Western "converts".

                      I have a friend who is genuinely interested in Islam (not Islamism - he's more Paul Bowles than Bin Laden) who has come across some of these people at a religious gathering. He was scared; they are modern-day Blackshirts. It is no coincidence that the former leader of C0mbat 18, (the paramilitary wing of the National Front / BNP), who inspired London nailbomber David Copeland, has become an Islamist extremist, yet still retains many of his old N*zi links. He explains his conversion thus: " I understood both Islam and National-Socialism as striving to create a better world based upon noble ideals and encouraging individuals to change themselves through a triumph of the will."
                      Last edited by Mikey_C; 08-15-2006, 10:53 AM.
                      \" ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell


                      • #12
                        Don't worry people: The Wall Street Journal is reporting a superior solution to profiling:


                        Which Travelers Have 'Hostile Intent'?
                        Biometric Device May Have the Answer
                        By JONATHAN KARP and LAURA MECKLER
                        August 14, 2006; Page B1

                        At airport security checkpoints in Knoxville, Tenn. this summer, scores of departing passengers were chosen to step behind a curtain, sit in a metallic oval booth and don headphones.
                        With one hand inserted into a sensor that monitors physical responses, the travelers used the other hand to answer questions on a touch screen about their plans. A machine measured biometric responses -- blood pressure, pulse and sweat levels -- that then were analyzed by software. The idea was to ferret out U.S. officials who were carrying out carefully constructed but make-believe terrorist missions.
                        RELATED ARTICLES

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                        WALL STREET JOURNAL VIDEO

                        4 GE Security CEO Louis Parker5 demonstrates some of the company's airport screening devices.

                        The trial of the Israeli-developed system represents an effort by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to determine whether technology can spot passengers who have "hostile intent." In effect, the screening system attempts to mechanize Israel's vaunted airport-security process by using algorithms, artificial-intelligence software and polygraph principles.
                        Neither the TSA nor Suspect Detection Systems Ltd., the Israeli company, will discuss the Knoxville trial, whose primary goal was to uncover the designated bad guys, not to identify threats among real travelers. They won't even say what questions were asked of travelers, though the system is generally designed to measure physical responses to hot-button questions like "Are you planning to immigrate illegally?" or "Are you smuggling drugs."
                        The test alone signals a push for new ways to combat terrorists using technology. Authorities are convinced that beyond hunting for weapons and dangerous liquids brought on board airliners, the battle for security lies in identifying dangerous passengers.
                        The method isn't intended to catch specific lies, says Shabtai Shoval, chief executive of Suspect Detection Systems, the start-up business behind the technology dubbed Cogito. "What we are looking for are patterns of behavior that indicate something all terrorists have: the fear of being caught," he says.
                        The Israeli-developed system combines questions and biometric measurements to determine if a passenger should undergo screening by security officials. Security specialists say such technology can enhance, but not replace, existing detection machines and procedures. Some independent experts who are familiar with Mr. Shoval's product say that while his technology isn't yet mature, it has potential. "You can't replicate the Israeli system exactly, but if you can incorporate its philosophy, this technology can be one element of a better solution," says Doron Bergerbest-Eilon, chief executive of Asero Worldwide consulting firm and a former senior official in Israel's security service.
                        To date, the TSA has more confidence in people than machines to detect suspicious behavior. A small program now is using screening officers to watch travelers for suspicious behavior. "It may be the only thing I know of that favors the human solution instead of technology," says TSA chief Kip Hawley.
                        The people-based program -- called Screening Passengers by Observation Technique, or SPOT -- began undergoing tests at Boston's Logan Airport after 9/11 and has expanded to about a dozen airports. Trained teams watch travelers in security lines and elsewhere. They look for obvious things like someone wearing a heavy coat on a hot day, but also for subtle signs like vocal timbre, gestures and tiny facial movements that indicate someone is trying to disguise an emotion.
                        TSA officers observe passengers while consulting a list of more than 30 questionable behaviors, each of which has a numerical score. If someone scores high enough, an officer approaches the person and asks a few questions.
                        "All you know is there's an emotion being concealed. You have to find out why the emotion is occurring," says Paul Ekman, a San Francisco psychologist who pioneered work on facial expressions and is informally advising the TSA. "You can find out very quickly."
                        More than 80% of those approached are quickly dismissed, he says. The explanations for hiding emotions often are innocent: A traveler might be stressed out from work, worried about missing a flight or sad because a relative just died. If suspicions remain, the traveler is interviewed at greater length by a screener with more specialized training. SPOT teams have identified about 100 people who were trying to smuggle drugs, use fake IDs and commit other crimes, but not terrorist acts.
                        The TSA says that, because the program is based on human behavior, not attributes, it isn't vulnerable to racial profiling. Critics worry it still could run afoul of civil rights. "Our concern is that giving TSA screeners this kind of responsibility and discretion can result in their making decisions not based on solid criteria but on impermissible characteristics such as race," says Gregory T. Nojeim, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington legislative office.
                        Mr. Shoval, the Israeli entrepreneur, believes technology-based screening is the key to rolling out behavior-recognition techniques in the U.S. With experience in counter-terrorism service and the high-technology industry, Mr. Shoval developed his Cogito device with leading former Israeli intelligence officials, polygraph experts and computer-science academics.
                        Here is the Cogito concept: A passenger enters the booth, swipes his passport and responds in his choice of language to 15 to 20 questions generated by factors such as the location, and personal attributes like nationality, gender and age. The process takes as much as five minutes, after which the passenger is either cleared or interviewed further by a security officer.
                        At the heart of the system is proprietary software that draws on Israel's extensive field experience with suicide bombers and security-related interrogations. The system aims to test the responses to words, in many languages, that trigger psycho-physiological responses among people with terrorist intent.
                        The technology isn't geared toward detecting general nervousness: Mr. Shoval says terrorists often are trained to be cool and to conceal stress. Unlike a standard lie detector, the technology analyzes a person's answers not only in relation to his other responses but also those of a broader peer group determined by a range of security considerations. "We can recognize patterns for people with hostile agendas based on research with Palestinians, Israelis, Americans and other nationalities in Israel," Mr. Shoval says. "We haven't tried it with Chinese or Iraqis yet." In theory, the Cogito machine could be customized for specific cultures, and questions could be tailored to intelligence about a specific threat.
                        The biggest challenge in commercializing Cogito is reducing false results that either implicate innocent travelers or let bad guys slip through. Mr. Shoval's company has conducted about 10 trials in Israel, including tests in which control groups were given terrorist missions and tried to beat the system. In the latest Israeli trial, the system caught 85% of the role-acting terrorists, meaning that 15% got through, and incorrectly identified 8% of innocent travelers as potential threats, according to corporate marketing materials.
                        The company's goal is to prove it can catch at least 90% of potential saboteurs -- a 10% false-negative rate -- while inconveniencing just 4% of innocent travelers.
                        Mr. Shoval won a contract for the Knoxville trial in a competitive process. Next year, Israeli authorities plan to test Cogito at the country's main international airport and at checkpoints between Israel and the West Bank, where the goal will be to catch genuine security threats while testing the logistics of using the system more broadly. The latest prototype costs about $200,000 a machine.
                        Even though his expertise is in human observation, U.S. behavior-recognition expert Dr. Ekman says projects like Cogito deserve a shot. He expects technology to advance even further, to devices like lasers that measure people's vital signs from a distance. Within a year, he predicts, such technology will be able to tell whether someone's "blood pressure or heart rate is significantly higher than the last 10 people" who entered an airport.
                        Write to Jonathan Karp at [email protected]6 and Laura Meckler at [email protected]7
                        URL for this article:

                        Hyperlinks in this Article:
                        (6) mailto:[email protected]
                        (7) mailto:[email protected]

                        Copyright 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
                        Infinite complexity according to simple rules.


                        • #13
                          Read it and weep:

                          'Suspicious' pair taken off plane

                          Two men were taken off a flight bound for Manchester after some passengers became alarmed about what they regarded as suspicious behaviour.
                          People on the Airbus 320 at Malaga alerted staff and demanded their removal, Monarch Airlines said. The pair were subsequently taken from flight ZB 613, carrying 150 passengers and seven crew, early on Wednesday. Two men, reported to be of Asian or Middle Eastern appearance, were questioned for several hours.
                          Flight delay
                          Authorities allowed them to fly back to the UK later in the week.
                          The plane had been due to take off about 0300 BST but was delayed by about three hours. A spokesman for Monarch Airlines said: "There were two passengers on the flight who came to the attention of the other people because they were apparently acting suspiciously.
                          "The flight attendants were sufficiently concerned to alert the crew who in turn informed the security authorities at Malaga airport."
                          No details of their "suspicious" behaviour were revealed.
                          The Conservative homeland security spokesman, Patrick Mercer, described the incident as "a victory for terrorists". "These people on the flight have been terrorised into behaving irrationally," he told the Mail on Sunday. "For those unfortunate two men to be victimised because of the colour of their skin is just nonsense."


                          According to a newspaper I read a couple of minutes ago, the two chaps were found to be "innocent" and have been booked on another flight, as suggested by the conclusion to this report:

                          "They flew back into Manchester later in the week and were not arrested by British police."

                          "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild


                          • #14
                            The conservative M.P. is right ........

                            The simple threat of terrorism is almost as effective as terrorism it self

                            In our countries, there are millions of muslims law abiding and decent people.......


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by johneffay
                              No, actually. One of them is a caucasian convert to Islam. Interestingly, the way the media over here are focussing on him is probably more racist than the racial profiling you are talking about. There seems to be a sort of 'he's been got at by the evil Other' mentality about their coverage of him. For example, The Daily Mirror had a front page article by some ex-girlfriend they had dredged up saying what a normal bloke he used to be...
                              And there is an end to the racial profiling nonsense.

                              Age and sex will probably be no guarantee of innocent intent, either.

                              I certainly remember the RAF and the Bader Meinhof groups from the Seventies and there's no guarantee that wrong headed Westerners, or white European (former East Bloc) Muslims, might not decide that the cause of violent Islamic radicalism is theirs too.

                              Plus, isn't the divisive nature of racial profiling just what the radical Islamic Fundamentalists want? To drive a wedge further between East & West and deeper into the heart of our own societies?