There were as usual many interesting comments, not all of which I can reply to. (Among critics of my position, I particularly commend the thoughtful comment posted by Anonymous on January 24.) I was however startled by the large number of comments that compare profiling to affirmative action and ask that commenters who oppose profiling as demeaning, alienating, and so forth take an equal stand against affirmative action. Although I have serious reservations about many forms of affirmative action, and although there is indeed a conceptual parallel between it and profiling, since in both cases a single criterion, such as ethnicity, is used as the basis for imposing benefits and burdens respectively, the symmetry is incomplete. The reason is simply that most beneficiaries of affirmative action are happy to have the benefits! Most people take for granted whatever advantages they have, however adventitious and undeserved. What is more adventitious than having wealthy parents? And yet how many rich kids are bitter because they have been singled out for benefits unrelated to their merit?
My argument against racial reparations, and likewise compensation for victims of profiling, is not that the beneficiaries will lose self-esteem or otherwise be immiserated by being benefited, but that using ethnic or racial or other such criteria for benefits treats the benefited group as being importantly different from the rest of the community. I would think it healthy for Americans to become less conscious of their differences, whether the differences are based on race, sex, national origin, ethnicity, politics, or sexual orientation, and think of themselves, rather, as being "just Americans." That would certainly help in presenting a united front against the threat, which is real and probably growing, of international terrorism. It is particularly important that Arab-Americans and other Americans of Middle Eastern origins or Muslim religion feel fully American. At the risk of seeming an alarmist (a "McCarthyite," some might call me), I believe that there are almost certainly al Qaeda sleeper cells in the United States, and it is extremely important that they not receive any assistance, financial or otherwise, or protection, active or passive, from the Muslim community. Cementing the community's loyalty to the United States is a vital national project, and this has to affect the amount of profiling that is in the national interest.
I do not agree with the comment that, in defense of remedial affirmative action, describes profiling as a product of "entrenched bias." When profiling is based on a relevant characteristic, such as a known greater propensity to engage in some antisocial behavior, it need have no connection whatsoever with bias, entrenched or otherwise.
A comment I strongly disagree with is that profiling airline passengers is unsound because no terrorist has ever been intercepted as the result of profiling. First, we don't know whether this is accurate; people are occasionally stopped from boarding a plane because of a secondary search prompted by their profile, and some of these people may be terrorists though they cannot be proved to be. Second and more important, knowing that there is profiling may discourage some terrorists from attempting to board an aircraft, since if they are arrested their career as terrorists may be terminated before they can do any harm.