Why Racial Profiling Doesn't Work

Via Andrew, a very interesting study:

Racial profiling, in other words, doesn't work because it devotes heightened resources to innocent people -- and then devotes those resources to them repeatedly even after they've been cleared as innocent the first time. The actual terrorists, meanwhile, may sneak through while Transportation Security Administration agents are focusing their limited attention on the wrong passengers.

It is important to remember that the most successful interdiction of a terrorist -- an unknowing terrorist, in this case -- trying to board an airplane with a bomb is the 1986 case of Anne-Marie Murphy, a red-headed, pregnant Irishwoman whose Palestinian boyfriend, Nezar Hindawi, planted a bomb in her carry-on bag in the hope that it would explode on an El Al flight leaving Heathrow for Israel. Murphy passed through the normal Heathrow inspection, but El Al security sensed something suspicious about her. Questioning -- not a pat-down, mind you, but a series of questions -- eventually led El Al to the bomb. If El Al security had merely been racially profiling, this red-headed woman would have boarded the flight, and 375 people would have died.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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