To Profile or Not to Profile
May 11, 1010
The perspicacity of my readers and listeners never ceases to gratify me. Here is an example of what I mean. I share this with you hoping to get your reactions to this gentleman’s comments.
Dear Bob Grant,
I’ve admired you greatly and wish to share a solution to our airport security apparatus. I have submitted this to the New York Times, in hope that it will be printed. Please, if you like the solution, share it. Thank you.
Airport security apparatus can be resolved by looking no farther than the highly regulated insurance industry in the United States. Any broker’s course will teach you that all insurance carriers profile as part of their modus operandi so that their actuaries may statistically compute premiums that are both affordable while ensuring profit to shareholders.
Case in point: My 20-year-old son is charged a very high driver’s insurance premium because of his age and gender. Were he a female, his premiums would be significantly lower. Were he married, his premiums would further diminish.
This is profiling in its purest form, but nobody says “boo” because it reflects the capitalistic drive that runs our country’s economy . . . profit.
A similar argument can be made to computer cookies that “profile” you every time you visit the site, so that they can figure out what best to target the visitor for advertisements, based on the sites they have visited in the past.
The message to the American people is clear: profiling based on age, gender, occupation and marital status, among other factors, is here and always has been here. We must ask ourselves: If profiling is sanctioned for the purpose of profit, should it not be equally applied with regard to the sanctity of human life and its preservation?
If the answer is “no,” then the inverse and perverse value is banal, that the almighty dollar and the altar of profit is of greater value than the individual safety of our citizenry.
Is this the type of values we want to live by? Shall we wait until an intifada-type fury of destruction is unleashed in explosions in subways, busses, churches, with suffering on American soil simply because we don’t have the moral courage to be proactive by instituting the only proven and failsafe means of protecting our country’s ports of entry?
How shall future generations judge our cowardice and abdication by default? Clearly, dialogue is needed now, as never before, to take action before threats to our national security occur that may undermine our very existence as a free nation.
In light of the recent Times Square bomber and his near escape from authorities, much would be gained by the United States adopting El Al’s profiling schema to ensure the safety of its crew and passengers.
Given the political sensitivity of profiling in this country, where the issue of race which singles out a person is the penultimate pariah topic, no politician would dare, out of fear of political correctness, meddle with, much less include this taboo subject as a platform issue in this coming November elections.
Perhaps, instead, the issue should be put to the choice of the people as is so often the case in California, by way of referendum through proposition. Were this not viable, another solution exists.
While El Al’s airport profiling is illegal in countries like South Africa, they are permitted to, under U.S. law, exercise their own profiling security protocols at U.S. based airports.
Perhaps a solution should be set forth that would sidestep the hurdle of political correctness, the authority of law, and the unlikelihood that a referendum would ever pass muster. Should the major carriers experimentally choose to offer a percentage of their flights at a slightly higher price that would guarantee a Federal Air Marshal on every flight as does El Al?
Based on the demand for security, many might posit that air and train travelers would be willing to overlook their being profiled in return for a statistically higher likelihood of a more secure traveling experience.
Empowering travelers to choose with their free will and pocketbooks would be an ultimate test in democracy and capitalism, as the free market is allowed to dictate what is in the best interest of our national security.
Let the debate begin, whether it applies to our ports of entry or our borders. Let us rise to the challenge of these times.
David C. Saidoff
West Hempstead, N.Y.