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01/28/2010

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Ted H

People like you, Mr. Becker, make terrorists so very happy. The point of terrorism is not to kill people, this is a false premise. More than six times as many that died on 9/11, die every year in the United States from homicide. More people die every year from a lack of health insurance than they do at the hands of terrorists. In fact, more U.S. citizens died from bear attacks in 2008, then they did at the hands of Islamic terrorists (excluding soldiers obviously).

Terrorist attacks are not really about killing people. Rationally, we should be far more afraid of being murdered by an ex-lover than a terrorist. Terrorism is so powerful not because of the number of people that died, and make no mistake it is a horrible tragedy that anyone should die at the hands of a terrorist (or by any violent means), but terrorism's power derives from the ability to scare us and change our behavior - violate our ideals.

And you are giving into that Mr. Becker. You are discarding equality under the law, in favor of statistical discrimination. You are discarding our ideal of assuming innocence and the inherent good nature of people, in favor of statistical discrimination. You are discarding what we stand for as a country, a nation that really does believe that equality under the law as prescribed under the 14th Amendment is a valid tenant, in favor of saying that no, in fact, people are not equal in our society. You are arguing it is valid to punish and target the overwhelming number of innocent people, because a few monsters decided to execute horrible acts of terrorism.

If America accepts the premise of Gary Becker, the terrorists will accomplish a huge win - further degradation of our ideals as a society.

Now, let's move on to the unintended side effects. How do terrorists recruit their foot soldiers? They use propaganda. They fabricate stories about America. This is the greatest ammunition you can give them to recruit terrorists. Profiling will just be used as a tool to bolster support among muslims, because now they can actual point to concrete proof that yes, in fact, American doesn't trust muslims, doesn't like muslims, and wants to treat them as second-class citizens. You are actually promoting their cause, and in a very small way - proving them right.

And finally, on a statistical front. There are over one billion muslims in the world. How many do you think are actually terrorists? Of course, not all of them fly since many muslims are quite poor, but still, you are looking at quite a large sample size and you are searching for quite a small number of people. But anyway, how do we know if someone is a muslim? Well, let's go by the most obvious benchmark - their name. We'll profile everyone with a "muslim sounding name", which means our President Barack Hussein Obama better get checked extra before getting on air force one! OK, but are terrorists really unable to get fake visas, passports, or names that can't get by security checks - I believe they obviously could. Furthermore, how do we know if a name is muslim, are we going to trust some TSA guy that he knows what all muslim names sound like? Also, couldn't they legally change their name in their country of origin if this became our policy, wouldn't this require international cooperation to have name change records, and then connect them to our system (which, of course, is not feasible)? All three of those are true, so we better profile by skin-color as well, all the arabs and persians, even the christian ones because you can't be sure. But that's sometimes hard to do also because of skin pigment differences, so we better add in some of the asians like Pakistani and Indians and lighter skinned blacks as well. But wait, the latest christmas bomber was a darker skinned African, so we better profile all black skinned people. But wait, what about that American citizens Bryant Neal Vinas? He fired a rocket attack against our soldiers in Afghanistan, and his parents were from Peru and Argentina. Guess we better profile South Americans now.

In fact, let's just profile everyone since following this logic you'll come to this conclusion. You see, the number of terrorists are so statistically irrelevant that if you can justify profiling muslims when such a small number of them are really terrorists, you can justify profiling about any race or religion.

So, Mr. Becker, you are for (i) throwing away American ideals, (ii) promoting policies that create more terrorists, (iii) profiling everyone on the planet.

I'd rather live in a society that doesn't aid terrorists with their propaganda and, more importantly, a society that doesn't say we are going to throw away who we are as a country because we are scared.

Lucho

There's a need to improve the security in transport to reduce the probability of suffering a terrorist attack, because economic the cost of one is huge but unknown, and this is done by people. So, the question is how to make this more effective to reduce any threat? should we scan anybody the same, random or discriminated? it is not fair for innocent and peaceful people to be treated different because of beliefs, shape, colour, but is a complex problem because
the cost of doing so to all is so huge, so needs to be targeted to the most likely people that can be a threat but they need to be treated with all possible respect to avoid any discomfort. One option could be to make this more random to full screening to anyone, but also there should be another selection on those that are more likely to become a threat, although the possibility of this person be a threat in his hole group is almost cero, having this scan is going to reduce the probability of having a real event, otherwise imagine that there is no control at all, for sure any terrorist of All-Qaeda that can afford a ticket will take a plain and two bags full of bombs to try to create something really bad. Therefore I understand the problem if there is a discrimination in persons, but If there is not enough resources to scan everybody this is needed for the sake of everyone, even when this can cause some discomfort.
Also the intelligence services needs to have a better system to prevent plots from terrorist groups and to be more aware of this groups, members but it's still complicated because not even in the US they know all the local groups and individuals that can be a threat.

N.E.H.

Regarding the issue of security in transportation, Homeland Security through the Coast Guard has already implemented the "Transportation Workers Identification Credential" process and is expected to expand this certification. The certification process lessens the ability and likelihood of Sabotuers (ie terrorists) from gaining access to sensitive transportation areas. Remember, we are at War.

Perhaps, all users of Air Transport or even public transport need to carry some form of Identification & Security Clearance Credential that allows them to purchase tickets, access Airports, boarding areas and planes and other types of public transport areas.

In regards to "profiling", "If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, looks like a duck. It probably is a duck." Get the picture. And the "Duck" is better removed; than allowing the mass murder of civilians from taking place. Remember, we are still at War and will be for the forseeable future.

Joshua

Levitt and Dubner opined on this exact topic in their book, "Superfreakonomics." They seemed to come to a similar conclusion, but were able to find someone who was able to significantly narrow the field of terrorist candidates; they believed that restricting it to the obvious characteristics (young male muslim, etc.)created too many false positives to want to screen them all. Unfortunately they claimed that they were unable to reveal their process for "national security reasons," but it might be worth looking into for a follow up on this topic.

abercrombie and fitch

The purpose of terrorism is to make a voice for the minority.

N.E.H.

And so ..., Sabotage and mass murder is justifiable when it is used to create a soapbox and give a voice to a more than probable psycho/socio-pathic minority. No wonder there are problems, "the tyranny of the minority is preferable to the peace, well being and security of the majority". Welcome to the "New Democracy".

Kevin

I must take issue with the statement that "men are more likely to watch sporting events than women." Perhaps that is true of male economists, but personally I am much more likely to watch women than to watch sporting events.

Obadiah Shoher

Sir,

There is a great difference between Israeli security situation and that of US-bound planes. During the Arab uprising, in certain parts of the country an average citizen had sizable chances to be killed, wounded, or know a victim. In America, terrorist threat to airplanes is negligible.

A proper comparison would be to Israel's current security situation when for several years the number of terror victims is statistically negligible. Today, a terrorist attack does not change consumer attitudes. And likewise in America. The 9/11 produced shock rather than fear, and subsequent attacks would not have so massive negative effect on travel.

You are also mistaken assuming that people would love the show of security they see in airports. On the contrary, the increased security increases their expectations. After the next attack they will be shocked that all the massive security did not work. A proper response would be to increase security a bit (a fake increase, of course) after every attack rather than in the expectation of it. This can be likened to Israeli situation in the territories. It has been a policy of the government since late 1980s to send tanks and aviation against terrorists. Such weapons were predictably useless against individual, deeply hidden fighters - a fact which allowed the government to claim that it cannot uproot terrorism even with best weapons. The problem, as you understand, is that different tactics had been required. Likewise, you don't want to show the population that airplane terrorists bypassed your government's best security efforts.

Honesty is a surprisingly good economic policy in the world of self-interested people. Instead of installing pretty useless and no less expensive body scanners and wasting million of man-hours in silly security checks, tell the people that yes, terrorists can strike airplanes, but they can also strike a building in Oklahoma.

Nation states won allegiance of their citizens by promising wide-scale security. Well, today we return to a historical norm where each man must watch over his shoulder for threats.

B. Larren

I feel that many don't understand the nature of screening. The issue is what is the balance of sensitivity of the screening test to specificity. In other words what is the receiver operating curve of the screening mechanism and how should this be adjusted in the most cost efficacious manner. Most of the screening that is done at airports is just a waste of money. Pulling aside 90 year-old grandparents on a commuter flight between some small town and another just wastes resources, more likely than not it just wastes resources even if it were an international flight.
Profiling or limiting the pool of targeted passengers subjected to more intensive screen i.e., choosing a population from which terrorists are more prevalent would increase the positive predictive value of the screening test and better allocate resources. It would reduce the number needed to screen to find a terrorist. This principles are well thought out in the medical literature of screening for disease. If one thinks of screening for terrorists like breast cancer, perhaps the outlook will be different. For instance, you don't screen girls aged 18 for breast cancer because it is not cost effective, despite the fact that you will miss a small amount of breast cancers in that population, more over you don't screen men either. Why is it that this principles can't apply to screening for terrorism. The answer really is because of the notion of political correctness.

Obviously more data is available for breast cancer and relative risks and costs, but the principles are the same.

Mark

Ted makes an interesting point, in that the increase in profiling might fuel anti-American sentiments, although I don't know if it would promote terrorist recruitment enough to negate its benefits.

What if we subsidize the tickets of passengers who are profiled or charge insurance to ones who are not? It might be politically incorrect, but not more so than profiling, alone, would be.

JetAviator7 {John}

It is the insanity of all this airline security that drives people of means to have their own airplanes, which in turn increases the carbon footprint of aviation.

Given the number of miles flown and the size of the fleet the proportionate risk of a terrorist attack on an airliner are quite small.

Applying a little basic common sense could work wonders, and if air travel were made simpler the airlines could profit.

I say to heck with the terrorists and let's rid ourselves of the TSA!

JetAviator7

John White, Publisher

http://all-things-aviation.com

Karl

"Many law-abiding young Moslem males would be offended by having to go through an especially intensive security check, so they should be treated with the utmost respect."

Unfortunately, that is rarely the way these things work. The Stanford Prison Experiment suggests that when one segregates in this way, the inherent "us v. them" mentality can easily lead one into problems. It's not even a question of simply monitoring the security personnel, as people often forget that the "guards" in the Stanford experiment were being monitored, by the psychologists running it. The psychologists themselves fell into the same sort of mindset and overlooked the abuses.

The way to stricture it is really for someone to have the job of advocating for the screened passengers, and hope that the more numerous security personnel do not "capture" (in the same sense as "agency capture") that passenger-advocate. It is also necessary to give that advocate some actual power to prevent abuses by security personnel, which seems to me unlikely to occur.

In short, I don't think there is a "kind-hearted" way to racially and religiously profile people when you are doing it because you fear they are criminals. The very judgment causes us to treat them as if they were criminals, and the system design elements needed to prevent that are more complicated than an simple-minded admonition to treat them with respect.

Carl

A major flaw of profiling is that, given the collection of sufficient data, it leaves a distinct trail of traits, characteristics, and behaviors to avoid. Dedicated terrorists could send decoys to probe for these profiling features. Akin to an ant colony optimization metaheuristic, the decoys' iterations could effectively deposit a metaphorical pheromone trail of least resistance, ultimately maximizing the probability of nondetection.

Because of this, comprehensive screening of a random sampling of passengers becomes a superior strategy to profiling. Also, random screening more closely aligns with the socially desirable goal of respecting the Fourth Amendment. Assiduus usus uni rei deditus et ingenium et artem saepe vincit.

id scanner

Recently, in light of all the risks upcoming all around, I developed a sense of panic again, like I had and many others had in 2001.
At least I'm glad that as time passes - more people are becoming rational and less "nice" about human rights and stuff. The use of devices for security preventing and monitoring is critical, at the airport, and on the plane, of course.
Personal safety first.

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Regarding the issue of security in transportation, Homeland Security through the Coast Guard has already implemented the "Transportation Workers Identification Credential" process and is expected to expand this certification. The certification process lessens the ability and likelihood of Sabotuers (ie terrorists) from gaining access to sensitive transportation areas. Remember, we are at War.

Perhaps, all users of Air Transport or even public transport need to carry some form of Identification & Security Clearance Credential that allows them to purchase tickets, access Airports, boarding areas and planes and other types of public transport areas.

In regards to "profiling", "If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, looks like a duck. It probably is a duck." Get the picture. And the "Duck" is better removed; than allowing the mass murder of civilians from taking place. Remember, we are still at War and will be for the forseeable future.

truck rental

You have made a right point Sesil. But what i don't understand is why is there so much hue and cry about transparent xray machine being deployed on the airports terminals.I think a simple solution to that could be to let the lady travelers be checked by ladies only and visa versa for males. That would simplify the situation.

lcd

I agree that flights in the past 10 years have become less convenient due to security checks, but to tell you the truth, with such a great risk of terrorism attack, I hold my breath and wait patiently with everyone else, I can't see other option - our safty first to all..

lcd

I agree that flights in the past 10 years have become less convenient due to security checks, but to tell you the truth, with such a great risk of terrorism attack, I hold my breath and wait patiently with everyone else, I can't see other option - our safty first to all..

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