Racial profiling is proving to be one of the most divisive arguments since the 9/11 attacks. The idea gained currency based on the fact that the 19 September 11 hijackers were Muslims from the Middle East. Give law enforcement the authority to look for possible terrorism suspects based on their race and religion and it'll be much easier to head off the next attack, or so the thinking goes.
But critics say profiling is unreliable and a smear against millions of law-abiding minorities. They also say troubling surprises have a way of cropping up.
For example, the American wife of convicted Al-Qaeda terrorism conspirator Wadih El- Hage. Wadih was personal secretary to Osama Bin Laden. He was convicted in the 1998 bombings of two American embassies on East Africa that killed 250 people and injured 5,000.
April Ray El-Hage was featured on the January 2002 cover of Newsweek--a young caucasian suburban Dallas housewife who was also muslim. April El-Hage could pass for the proverbial soccer mom, but was quoted as saying she would consider sending her son to fight the enemies of Islam, though she opposes killing civilians.
Around that time, American troops in Afghanistan captured a white Marin County, California native named John Walker LIndh--an enemy combatant fighting for the Taliban. He was convicted and is serving a 20- year prison sentence.
Still at large is Adam Gadahn, an American-born spokesman who has appeared in several Al-Qaeda videos threatening the west since 2001.
Fast forward to November 5, 2009. 13 people are killed and 30 wounded in a shooting attacking at Fort Hood, Texas. The suspect is Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an American-born Muslim U.S. Army psychiatrist of Palestinian descent. A few weeks later, on Christmas Day, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria is accused of trying to blow up Northwest flight 253 with explosives sewn into his underwear.
Right wing pundits are quick to pounce, renewing their call for racial and religious profiling of Middle-Eastern and African people to keep America safe. Sarah Palin says "Profile Away!"
Now we have "Jihad Jane," real name Colleen LaRose. The blond-haired blue-eyed suburban Philadelphia woman is accused in a federal indictment of posting messages online under the name "Jihad Jane," providing material support to terrorists and expressing online her desire to participate in Jihad, or "holy war." Specifically, LaRose is also accused of traveling to Europe to kill a Swedish artist who had angered Muslims.
Counter-terrorism experts say the "Jihad Jane" case provide chilling evidence that America's enemies are adjusting their recruiting tactics to take advantage of racial profiling. In other words, Al-Qaeda may be using foot soldiers who can easily blend in racially to attack targets in Europe or the U.S. What do you think? Is it time to profile behavior and connections instead of race and ethnicity?