Why Aren't We Allowed to Profile People of a Certain Ethnicity if it Means Possibly Catching Terrorists Before They Act?

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Profiling is defined by Merriam-Webster as “The act of suspecting or targeting a person on the basis of observed characteristics or behavior.” While profiling has been used before, it is not always accurate. The science behind profiling is still relatively new and both past and current methods of profiling unfortunately are closely related to race, ethnicity, and religion. Using profiling to identify terrorists or even criminals is a severely flawed technique. This is because there is no “look” that all criminals or terrorists portray. People who join terrorist organizations span different races, social classes, religions, countries, and political beliefs. Therefore, you cannot create a general profile for a terrorist because there simply is no profile that can be used. The lack of a terrorist profile has agencies using more effective methods that will yield productive results. Tactics such as police investigations, forensic science, and improved intelligence gathering methods have proved to be more effective than profiling. Gathering hard data on an individual is far more valuable in determining potential ties to terrorist organizations.

The FBI follows four analysis methods when screening individuals: antecedent, method and manner, body disposal, and post offense behavior. The first phase, antecedent, focuses on the fantasy and plan the criminal had prior to the crime and what at the end of the day pushed them to commit the crime. The method and manner portion focuses of the types of victims and the way the crime was committed. The body disposal phase focuses on the way a victim was disposed of. Lastly, post offense behavior focuses on the criminals attempt to avoid detection after the crime had been committed. Together, these four crime phases can narrow the field of suspects based on actual evidence. Nevertheless, making conclusions based on hard evidence is still a far more effective tactic to detect potential threats from terrorism.

For more information, please visit: Psychology Today; apa.org