During a segment on Fox News, Lt. General Tom McInerney (retired) opined that
If you are an 18 to 28-year-old Muslim man then you should be strip searched... if we don't do that, there's a very high probability we're going to lose an airliner.
Thrusting aside the obligatory Ben Franklin quote about those who would sacrifice liberty for security, someone really should ask Lt. General McInerney how one goes about picking a Muslim out of the security line at JFK. There is no secret Muslim handshake, tattoo, or Shibboleth; if "Muslims" are going to be subject to some different level of scrutiny they have to be picked out of the queue somehow.
McInerney says "Muslim" but he means "Arab."
"Muslim" is not a race; it's a religion. Indeed, roughly a billion people the world over ascribe to the teachings of Islam. Muslims are White, Black, Arab, and Asian and while every American knows the turban-wearing, dark-skinned, scraggly-bearded stereotype, the simple fact remains that neither skin, clothing, or hair "make" a terrorist.
Apologists for racial profiling - which is what McInerney is really suggesting - point to the Israeli system to defend it. Security there involves "profilers" who deal, not with contraband but with people. That's not to say that you can walk onto a plane at Ben Gurion with a Desert Eagle - you couldn't - but the screening system in Israel is much more attuned to the disposition and intention of the traveler rather than what he or she might be carrying.
Race plays a part in that passenger profile but only a small one. Rafi Sela, a security consultant at Ben Gurion International Airport, emphasizes the importance of eye contact, sound intelligence, and an awareness of passenger behavior, pointing out that even the most rigorous security screening process can not protect the tightly packed crowds of people waiting to pass through the security checkpoints.
McInerney's proposal is a wrecking-ball next to Sela's scalpel. Relegating "Muslim-looking" men ages 18-28 to an airport-security purgatory of strip-searches and other invasive screening procedures doesn't win the war; it just changes the game and not for the better.
Not only does such racial profiling introduce a false sense of security (surely the vaunted Al Queda terror network could strap a bomb to someone who doesn't look, speak, and dress like an extra from Lawrence of Arabia), it delegitimates the security apparatus itself.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is, after all, Nigerian. While Americans have been willing to put up with a great deal in the name of in-flight security, if McInerney thinks sending blacks and other minorities to the back of the proverbial bus is going to play well he's got another thing coming.
If McInerney thinks airport security is ineffective now he should consider how crippled it will be when it is the target of active resistance by American minority groups. Given how hard African Americans fought for their rights only a generation ago it would seem foolish to expect anything less in the face of what amounts to a 21st Century Jim Crow.