May 02, 2005

Profiling Terrorists

One of the great challenges of our time is the most effective and efficient way to identify terrorist. In a country such as the U.S. in which civil liberties are prevalent and treasured it is a hard road to hoe because the most effective methods to identify terrorists is in part through the use of racial profiling.

For more on Racial profiling use this link or this one.

My definition of racial profiling is:

The use of race as a factor by law enforcement/government/private security as a consideration of a suspect's potential involvement in a crime as based upon their race/religion/ethnic background.

There are multiple issues surrounding this practice because it impinges upon the rights of people based upon nothing more than their happening to be a member of a particular group.

However, the reality is that in some areas there are enough incidents that you can make a case that justifies further study and consideration about the utility and practicality of using this as a tool to identify prospective problems, known in common parlance as terrorists.

As a Jewish man I admit that the thought of this makes me uncomfortable. My relatives were branded by the Germans and forced to use things that identified them as Jews. I see such a move as having the potential to be abused, but I have to say that I cannot ignore it out right. A couple of examples.

Daniel Pipes has an interesting piece today in which he outlines one of the great victories against terror in recent times.

"Which is "the federal government's greatest court victory against terrorism"? According to an article by Debra Erdley in yesterday's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, that would be the conviction on April 26, 2005, of Ali al-Timimi.

Ali who? Well yes, with the exception of the Tribune-Review, which followed the Timimi case because of a Pittsburgh angle, the mainstream media stayed resolutely away from the case, with nearly everyone simply reprinting the identical Associated Press dispatch deep inside the newspaper. Television was apparently oblivious to the trial.

What is so momentous about the Timimi conviction, Erdley notes, is its being the first time since 9/11 that the U.S. government has put away a terrorist not for his deeds, such as raising money or blowing something up, but for his words."

Before you go off on a rant about free speech understand that it does have limitations, you cannot say anything. It is a myth to suggest otherwise.

"And now, Ali al-Timimi, also a sheikh, follows in Abdel Rahman's footsteps to jail because he tried to get a group of young Americans Muslims associated with a paintball group in northern Virginia, to go to Afghanistan and fight for the Taliban regime there. Erdley explains:

Al-Timimi trial witnesses, including several members of the Paintball Jihad, said that at a secret meeting on Sept. 16, 2001, he advised the men to leave the country and take up arms for the Taliban in its coming war with the U.S. "There is definitely a line crossed where someone is not just expressing views about our country, but encouraging, directing and enabling individuals to act on those words," [Eastern District of Virginia U.S. Attorney Paul] McNulty said.

"Some people still want to debate the issue of whether this constitutes speech. The essence of the case was, did these words have an effect on these individuals? Did they get solicited, induced, encouraged? Did they have an influence over the conduct of other people? The jury came back guilty on all counts," McNulty said.

This case, prosecuted by Gordon Kromberg and his team, is so important because it dealt with words and placed them in context. For example, the indictment of Timimi quotes a message he sent out on February 1, 2003, the day when the Columbia space shuttle crashed to earth, in which he – a born American citizen – stated that

There is no doubt that Muslims were overjoyed because of the adversity that befell their greatest enemy.

The Columbia crash made me feel, and God is the only One to know, that this is a strong signal that Western supremacy (especially that of America) that began 500 years ago is coming to a quick end, God Willing, as occurred to the shuttle.

God Willing, America will fall and disappear."

I think that it is important to pay attention to speech, to listen to what is being said and in some cases such as this one to react to it.

The issue for me is how much am I willing to give up to try and increase my safety/security and that of my family. There is a part of me that is very much saddened by the need for such measures, but I am gravely concerned that not taking them could lead to further problems.

This is something I need to ponder further.

No comments: