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By Scott Tibbs, December 29th, 2004

Racial profiling and the War on Terror

Here's a column and a blog post by Daniel Pipes, who argues that profiling of Muslims is an important part of the War on Terror. He brings up Michelle Malkin's book defending internment of Americans of Japanese decent in World War II. I am going to try to get my hands on a copy of Malkin's book, so I can comment on it further.

My thought here is that I do not think there is any justification for interning thousands of innocent people because some of them might be spies, terrorists, or enemy agents. It would have been reasonable in a time of war to keep a closer eye on Americans of Japanese decent. It insults the intelligence of the Japanese leadership to assume they would not have sent enemy agents to live within the other immigrants. However, simply rounding up everyone of a specific nationality is not morally acceptable.

This, of course, is tied directly into the War on Terror. In this war, the enemy we are fighting is Islamist radicals. Most of the time, the face of that enemy is a young Arab male. It is reasonable and proper to use the politically incorrect practice of "racial profiling", because this group is a bigger threat than, say, elderly women. Yes, terrorists come from all groups, from anti-abortion fanatics to Timothy McVeigh. But in this particular war, we know what the most common face of the enemy is and it is silly to suggest otherwise.

In the use of "profiling" we need to be very careful to not violate civil rights. No one should be held without a trial or reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. We have to make sure due process is followed, and we have to make sure the Fourth Amendment is respected. When you start implementing "profiling", it is very easy to take steps that are not acceptable. We must carefully guard against that.

Finally, I disagree with the notion that "security" comes first. America is not a country built on nationality, ethnicity or something similar. We are a nation founded on the principle of freedom through limited government. Once we start violating civil liberties at will, as Abraham Lincoln did during the War Between the States, we cease to be America and we become something else.

I am not suggesting that we do what we did in the 1940's or 1860's. I am suggesting, though, that we take common-sense steps to ensure our security while respecting others' civil liberties.