Friday, December 25, 2009

Does it make sense to pay as much attention to a 90-year-old lady from Iowa as to a 23-year-old man from a Muslim country?

The L.A. Times is reporting a Muslim man tried to blow up a Northwest Airliner with Delta Airlines markings, today, on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit:
In what was described as an act of terrorism, a Nigerian passenger attempted to ignite an incendiary device aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Friday as the plane began its approach for landing, federal officials said. Other passengers overpowered the man and the plane landed safely.

The suspect, identified as Abdul Mutallab, 23, suffered severe burns as a result of the attempt, authorities said, and two of the other 277 passengers reported minor injuries.

The suspect smuggled a powder aboard the plane in a container taped to his leg, the official said. Covering himself with a blanket to hide his actions, he used a syringe to inject a liquid into the powder, and a fire resulted from the combustible mix, according to the official, who did not identify the materials.

Those aboard described some panic after noises like firecrackers, then quick, heroic actions.

Peter Smith, another passenger, told WJBK Fox 2 in Detroit that one man saw the flames and leaped across the aisle to help extinguish them. "He jumped over all the other people and he took care of it, so the fire went out," Smith said.

Nigerians have not figured in many cases involving Al Qaeda, but the rise of violent Islamic extremism in that country -- as well as in sub- Saharan Africa overall -- concerns Western anti-terrorism officials.

A good question is why, when security personnel are screening every single passenger who boards an airplane, they don't just let through without a second thought the old WASP-looking grandmas and other people who have never posed any type of security risk, but then focus far more attention on people, especially males from age 20 to 55, who come from Islamic countries or have Islamic names, or people who are otherwise acting suspicious or nervous?

Before I would suggest profiling anyone on the basis of his religion or national origin, etc., I first ask myself the question, "So how fair do you think that idea would be if it applied to you?" In other words, what if they let everyone through without a second thought, but hassled bald Jews over 6-feet tall for a half an hour every time you wanted to board a plane?

Of course, I would hate that. But if every single recent incident of attacks against civilian airlines were made by bald Jews over 6-feet tall, I would understand why they were suspicious of me. And I would agree that paying special attention to people with those characteristics was the right thing to do.

Because in fact all the terrorists we are worried about on airliners are males from age 20 to 55 who come from Islamic countries or have Islamic names, we should be profiling them and letting just about everyone else get on an airplane with no more than passing through a metal detector.

Most of what passes for "security checks" -- like forcing my 87-year-old mother to take off her shoes and not carry on a bottle of water -- is a huge waste of time and makes flying an unnecessary pain in the ass.

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