How Profiling Works

Post-9/11 Profiling

Airline passengers have gotten used to stricter security measures at airports.
Airline passengers have gotten used to stricter security measures at airports.

After the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States (and subsequent terrorist attacks in the United States and elsewhere), the country is particularly sensitive to airport security screenings. Critics say that a disproportionate number of "Arab-looking" people have been detained, searched or questioned at airport security checkpoints. Some people claim this only makes sense, based on the ethnic backgrounds of the 9/11 attackers. However, such practices would violate civil rights law, and at least one expert has pointed out that focusing only on Middle-Eastern people would do more harm than good. Raphael Ron, former security head at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport, has stated, "The worst attack on Ben Gurion was carried out by Japanese in 1972. If we focus on ethnic groups, we will miss what the enemy already understands: using a non-Arab person to carry out an attack might succeed" [ref].

In the months immediately following 9/11, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee brought to court several cases involving people of Arabic descent who were removed from flights despite having passed other security checkpoints. Courts determined that the pilot's discretion to remove objectionable passengers cannot be exercised simply because of a passenger's ethnic origin or race. Still, the threat of terrorism made many Americans accept this tactic. Transportation Safety Authority rules have since been changed to clarify that racial profiling at airport security checkpoints is not legal, and newer security systems are designed to be race-neutral, focusing instead on behavior patterns.

For lots more information on profiling and related subjects, check out the links below.

Related Articles

More Great Links


  • Aaron, Lawrence. "State police still need oversight on racial profiling.", July 14, 2006. 5JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2OTYwODk3
  • "Are Airlines Violating Civil Liberties Because of Worries of Terrorism?." American Morning transcript. June 5, 2002
  • Amnesty International: Racial Profiling Laws in Your State.
  • Donnelly, Sally B. "A New Tack for Airport Screening: Behave Yourself.", May. 17, 2006.,8599,1195330,00.html
  • Evans, Catherine Donaldson. "Terror Probe Changes Face of Racial Profiling Debate.", October 01, 2001.,2933,35521,00.html
  • Fickes, Michael. "Exposing Hostile Intent." Transportation Security, Nov 12 2003.
  • Fink, Sheri. "Reasonable Doubt." Discover Magazine, July, 2006.
  • Harris, David A. "Profiles in Injustice." W. W. Norton & Company, May 2003. ISBN 1565848187.
  • MacDonald, Heather. "Are Cops Racist?" Ivan R. Dee, January 25, 2003. ISBN 156663489X.
  • "Newsbrief: Supreme Court Allows Drug Dog Vehicle Searches Without Cause.", January 28, 2005.
  • QT-P3. Race and Hispanic or Latino: 2000 Data Set: Census 2000 Summary File 1 (SF 1) 100-Percent Data Geographic Area: United States. U.S. Census Bureau. DEC_2000_SF1_U_QTP3&-ds_name=DEC_2000_SF1_U&-_>
  • U.S. Department of Justice: Criminal Offenders Statistics
  • United States v. Sokolow
  • Verniero, Peter. "Interim Report of the State Police Review Team Regarding Allegations of Racial Profiling." New Jersey State Police, April 20, 1999.