Saturday, November 22, 2008

Keeping the Tigers Away

Man: Hey, little fella, why are you banging those sticks together?
Boy: To keep the tigers away.
Man: There are no tigers around here!
Boy: Works, don't it.

Writing at Cato, Jim Harper notes that the airport security behavioral profiling program is a failure on multiple levels:

According to this story in USA Today, interviewing or patting down 160,000 people with (unreported) indicia of suspicion at airports has resulted in 1,266 arrests. It has failed to find wrongdoing 99.3% of the time. Occassionally, investigations based on behavioral profiling have turned up such things as drug possession and the use of fake identification.

Behavioral profiling has never turned up someone planning harm to aviation security. It has never turned up a person with weapons, guns, bombs, or any other implement that would cause a flight to be delayed, much less brought down.

A 0.7% success rate in finding crime is not relevant. Behavioral profiling has a 0% success rate in finding threats to aviation. Behavioral profiling does not have a proximate relationship to securing against harm coming to commercial aviation.

Works, don't it.

Behavioral profiling, as used by the the Department of Homeland Security, violates the principles of good criminal profiling: DHS is not validating a suspect against a list of known qualifiers in a particular case; they are searching with a broad net, and advertising that they're doing so. It's an improper use of profiling.

The purpose is not to find anyone; the purpose is to keep the bad guys from trying to fly.

Works, don't it.

It may work, but at a tremendous cost. We passengers lose our liberty and personal dignity, while the bad guys are forced merely to choose another vector of attack. And the point of the joke about keeping the tigers away is of course that we don't know if the terrorists would ever again plan to use the air system to carry out an attack.

What DHS has done is to assert governmental authority to inspect our persons, papers, and effects without probable cause, while ensuring that fewer people can effectively use the airways for legitimate purposes.

Works, don't it.

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