Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sensible Profiling

Jonah Goldberg rails against the lack of sensibility in airline security:

The TSA’s more established security system, Screening Passengers by Observation Technique, or SPOT, relies on human intelligence instead of the artificial kind. Teams are trained to scrutinize passengers for more than 30 questionable behaviors, according to the Journal: “They look for obvious things like someone wearing a heavy coat on a hot day, but also for subtle signs like vocal timbre, gestures and tiny facial movements that indicate someone is trying to disguise an emotion.”

This apparently is unacceptable for civil libertarians.

“Our concern is that giving TSA screeners this kind of responsibility and discretion can result in their making decisions not based on solid criteria but on impermissible characteristics such as race,” the ACLU’s Gregory T. Nojeim told the Journal.

In other words, while our enemies are coming up with ingenious ways to murder Americans, we’re coming up with ingenious ways to search for our enemies in the nicest manner possible. No amount of training, it seems, can immunize against the real threat to America: the possibility that somewhere, at some time, a TSA cop might pull an Arab or South Asian out of a line at an airport unfairly and talk to them for five minutes.

Note: We’re not talking about training security personnel to racially profile passengers. Quite the opposite. The ACLU’s problem is with training officers not to racially profile if that training nonetheless gives them enough autonomy so that it’s theoretically possible to take race into account.
Read the whole thing.

10 comments:

Jeff said...

Tom,

the ACLU doesn't run the TSA. If Goldberg doesn't like the way airport screenings are done then the ACLU is a strawman. (I know that Joyce Hamby was given alot of scrutiny due to her metal rods in her back---it seems that if the 60 plus set are terrorists then we have lost the war). Anyway, I tend to agree with some of Goldberg's complaints---but the folks to rail against occupy the White House.

Tom said...

I don't disagree and I don't think Goldberg would disagree, except to say that the ACLU vocally opposes all of the most effective efforts of the TSA. They raise enough of a stink that some politicians latch onto them and others who are inexplicably weak-willed fold under the pressure.

dcat said...

I agree 100% with Jeff. This is yet another example of conservatives overlooking incompetence in order to blame liberals for the failings of this administration.
Have you seen the people who serve as screeners at our nation's airports? Are we really supposed to fall for this argument that they are well-trained professionals with expertise in counterterrorism who can scrutinize vocal timbre? Puh-leeeze. I fly a lot. And I am here to tell you thaqt Jonah Goldberg is full of crap if he thinks that the dude operating the wand is an expert in the human psyche to the point where they can detect the menaing behinjd the twitch of a person they have never before met.
I love how folks like Goldberg will suddenly embrace the most inane pop-psychology mindset if and when it buttresses their cause. Yes, Jonah, I'm ok, you're ok, and its the civil libertarians' fault that the administration has not earned the sort of trust they expect us to give them.
Again, all it takes is anyone who has flown telling enough anecdotes about the egregiously capricious and halfassed way in which most TSA workers do their jobs to build up enough of a case thjat the trust us/it's the ACLU's fault argument sputters utterly.
Jonah Goldberg is yet another tiresome practitioner of the school of thought that believes that the rest of us need to be scolded about the threats we face, and if our approach to things is not precisely in line with his cockamamie schemes we all hate America and have forgotten 9/11.

Bah.

dcat

Tom said...

DC:

Again, I agree that much of the blame--as far as it goes, since they haven't gotten any more planes since 9/11--must go toward the politicians running the show, and I don't think Goldberg would disagree with that assessment either. Beyond that, you seem to be taking Goldberg to task for a lot of things he does not actually say in this article.

Anonymous said...

DCAT

"This is yet another example of conservatives overlooking incompetence in order to blame liberals for the failings of this administration. "

This line of argument would be stronger coming from you if you didn't seem to see Bush incompetence in everything under the sun....

dcat said...

Anonymous -- Well, if you are under the sun and you see incompetence everywhere, you deal with it. Are you denying the incompetence? Or are you just not capable of coming up with an actual argument to refute what I wrote? I'm just curious. Just because I see it everywhere does not mean that the administration is actually competent in these matters. I'm just curous how the argument's strength or weakness is affected by my seeing Bush administration incompetence in our antiterrorism policies? But yes, I see incompetence everywhere, and I can defend those assertions.
Now to someone who had something of substance to say . . .

Tom --
I don't necessarily see the "they haven't gotten any more planes since 9/11" argument as all that efficacious. They had not gotten any before 9/11 after all, either. It's pretty tough for em to give the admin credir for something not happening that should not have happened the first time.

Where do I take Goldberg to task for something that he does not say? Surely he embraces the pop-psychology mindset, or did he not argue that the rigorously trained TSA folks ought to be looking for twitches? Please tell me where I did what you accuse me of doing.
If you want to see a much better argument along the lines of what Goldberg advocates, without the fooolish misplacement of blame on "civil libertarians" (Believers in the Constitution? Bastards!) or the ACLU, look at Marty Peretz's piece on TNR online today:

http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=w060814&s=peretz081606

Amazing how he poses an argument without concocting false enemies. I do not agree with all of it, and I wonder if culturally the US is not simply different from Israel in too many ways to make such a policy viable, but at least it isn't a fatuous little j'accuse.

dcat

Tom said...

To clarify: I wasn't giving credit to the administration or anyone else by noting that the terrorists haven't gotten another plane. The point was that we all think we see ways that the TSA could be run better or more efficiently, but that is a far cry from saying that they are not doing to a large extent their first and most important job, which is deterring terrorists.

On the second point, I'm just saying that Goldberg does not scold anyone about the threats we face, and nor does he accuse anyone besides the terrorists of hating America or forgetting 9-11. Lots of commentators do that, even Goldberg from time to time, but he does not in this article.

dcat said...

Tom --
Um, yes he does:

"In other words, while our enemies are coming up with ingenious ways to murder Americans, we’re coming up with ingenious ways to search for our enemies in the nicest manner possible. No amount of training, it seems, can immunize against the real threat to America: the possibility that somewhere, at some time, a TSA cop might pull an Arab or South Asian out of a line at an airport unfairly and talk to them for five minutes."

Sorry, but that's scolding. That is precisely what I was referring to. there is a clear implication: Agree with him and you want to fight terrorism, disagree with him and you are coddling terrorists.

dcat

Anonymous said...

"Well, if you are under the sun and you see incompetence everywhere, you deal with it. "

Or get some counseling....

"Or are you just not capable of coming up with an actual argument to refute what I wrote? "

Capable of coming up with an actual response to "This is yet another example of conservatives overlooking incompetence in order to blame liberals for the failings of this administration. "?

No, I choose not to play that game.

"But yes, I see incompetence everywhere, and I can defend those assertions."

You didn't here. All you did was blame generic "Bush incompetence" in a conversation about the TSA and the ACLU....

"Now to someone who had something of substance to say . . ."

YOU sure didn't...

dcat said...

Brave Anonymous Soul --
Really? I mean, I realize you are now pressing to find something. I wrote a response that incorporated a lot of ideas -- only one of which was Bush administration incompetence.

So do you agree with the article? If so, why? Rather than snipe at people actually making a case, how about making a contribution? Goldberg is wrong, and I have argued why. If you want to make it personal, you bring it on, you little gutter snipe, but I think the courtesy of letting us know who you are would be nice.

I don't accept counselling advice (thinking the Bush administration is incompetent is now a psychologial issue?) from anonymous twats. And apparentely you do "play that game," because it was you who started the game.

But ok, anonymous. Something to say about terrorism. Try:

http://www.h-net.org/~hns/articles/2006/012506a.html

http://www.h-net.org/~hns/articles/2005/022405a.html

http://hnn.us/articles/4071.html

http://hnn.us/articles/1831.html

http://hnn.us/articles/1795.html

http://hnn.us/articles/1535.html

Is that a start? It ain't the New York Times, and I'm sure I'm no "anonymous," but then, who is? (Well, who is anonymous?)

Derek