Sunday, August 13, 2006


Profiling? I believe the majority of the voters in this country want our law enforcement officers (and the citizenry) to use good common sense on this subject. Our law enforcement departments don’t suspect people because of their race, religion, occupation, dress, height, weight, age, sex, attractiveness, education, or profession. Behavioral factors are a major reason anyone should be watched. If authorities suspect something may be out of place the great majority of us want them to continue further surveillance. Law enforcement officers are trained to look for patterns such as individuals buying cell phones by the case or large quantities of explosive making materials. Other factors including “profiling”, who they communicate and socialize with, would be included in the laws assessment whether to warrant legitimate surveillance, search or arrest. Our safety often depends on expediency as most of us would rather be inconvenienced than dead or injured. Do officers of the law sometimes make mistakes? Yes, and sometimes serious ones but that is the way of our lives. Corrective action is usually taken.

I was born on a farm and we profiled with regularity. If we saw individuals and activities that did not fit in with our neighborhood kept an eye on the situation and sometimes alerted our neighbors. It was not unusual to have our produce stolen and it was not being stolen by the neighbors. Now living in the city, I expect our informal neighborhood watch to do the same. If we had an animal missing we described it by color, sex, size and breed. If we saw a Hereford bull among our Angus heifers, (or vice-versa) we made some quick decisions without asking the heifers what they thought.

When I was very young we had gypsy wagon caravans that would come down the back roads. Most of them were not thieves but our awareness senses were alerted until they had moved on. Also, our Mom would not let any hired men sleep in our house; I had seven sisters so mom was doing a little profiling on her own.

After 9/11 profiling awareness was intensified which means more of us are alive today because of this precautionary and inconvenient surveillance. None of the systems used such as behavioral recognition, Secure Flight, SPOT and terrorist watch lists work to everybody’s satisfaction. We can by observation know some of the programs that identify threatening people have been working as we have not had any major terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. Unfortunately pacifist organizations and many radical ACLU operatives have slowed and complicated the process. So have bureaucratic fumbling, privacy protection controversy and technology failures.

Accept that our lives changed drastically in this decade. Accept that this country founded as a Christian country is under attack by world-wide terrorist operatives that are determined to destroy the United States of America. And Israel. The millions of people whose job it is to protect us are under threat by many of our own citizens who give solace to terrorist organizations, to try to force our government to expose their intelligence gathering actions. The ill-informed or radicals of any ilk may protest any act that might infringe on ones rights because this is a free country. Anyone can say or write whatever opinion they form or magnify any half-truth to make our government look like the oppressor. Or the media can constantly show images that often cause opinion changes that assist the enemy..

No, this country is not a “free” country and never was a free country. Ask members of the black community, the Jewish community, the Chinese community and many religious groups to name a few whose liberties have been and sometimes are compromised with acts leading to even death and destruction. We operate under sets of laws and the more we weaken these laws to give freedom to Nazi organizations, hate groups, religious zealots and Islamicfascist terrorists, the less free we become. All people who live in this melting pot called the United States of America must accept some injustice and inconveniences if we expect to live as the freest country in the world.

The plot in England was discovered and foiled, at least, so far, because a large number of people were under surveillance concerning their spending, travel and communications with emphasis on their communications which allowed security to determine if their behavior was or was going to be detrimental to the safety of free people.

Suggested reading is “The Looming Tower” by Lawrence Wright, a detailed look at al Qaeda’s founder and the U. S. agents who saw the threat developing before 9/11. Many recognized the threat thru profiling, surveillance and intelligence gathering but were denied a voice largely because of the legal/bureaucratic wall between the FBI and the CIA, a wall largely dismantled by the Patriot Act. Now pacifist groups are trying to dismantle the Patriot Act. Wake up, those of you who think a lot like I do. We are becoming more and more under threat by those who claim to defend democracy when actually many of them want democracy to fail and blame it all on our current political leaders. There are many leaders from both political parties who can share equally in any blame game. Replacing Republicans with Democrats (or vice versa) is never a whole answer. The “hate and kill United States infidels” thinking started long before any Clinton or Bush presidency. Read up on the history of the world. Realize that we are never going to be safe in this country no matter what political body is in power. The more some “chatter” or walk in political protests, the less safe we all become

A good friend of mine just returned from some weeks in Europe. She and her husband were very concerned with the way some European countries are being influenced by those who would return that Europe to the middle ages. Many terrorist groups would like to do the same to us and these terrorists have been and are spread all over the world.

Those of us who believe in our form of government must speak up more to offset the type of half-truth drivel written by one Tonya Sneed of Peoria in today’s JS. I suggest she should have stayed in Guatemala or head to the MidEast to “get to know the people” and write her letters to the editors. She probably doesn’t believe some countries and religious terrorists would behead her for writing what she wrote. Empathy, which most of us in the world have, is one thing; the half-truth blame game is another.

Leonard Pitts is not my favorite columnist but he got it largely correct in his column in the JS today.


ben said...

First, please provide links to stories you discuss, when possible. I found the Tonya Sneed article article. Unfortunately, it appears that Mr. Pitts' writings are only available in print...

Second, you don't make it very clear which specific instances of 'profiling', which parts of the USA PATRIOT Act, and which 'injustices and inconveniences' you believe are 'worth it'.

Do you not believe that our founding fathers would have been considered 'terrorists' in today's political climate? The establishment is always afraid of progress. Do you wish the British would have sent the Franklin and Jefferson to Guantanamo, to be locked up indefinitely with no way to get their word out or mount a defense?

I don't believe that bin Laden et al should be compared to Washington or Payne any more than you or I should, but that's the whole point. Without our freedoms (e.g. speech/press, due process, no warrantless search/seizure), the government only has to claim that we are terrorists and *voila* it is so.

B. Ridley Critz, III said...

I take little exception to your post, Merle, save for one minor cavil.

You state that this was founded "as a Christian country." How, then, do you explain the non-Christian founding fathers, who made certain that mere Christianity, or any other religion for that matter, was NOT required nor even suggested as a requirement for holding any political office, and who established our RIGHT to believe as we desired or to not believe at all?

No, my friend, this is NOT a Christian country and never was. It is just a country where the majority of citizens state a belief in Christianity. Of course, that majority is dwindling...and the percentage who PRACTICE the temets of Christianity is FAR below 50%, but that is a matter for another day.

Merle Widmer said...


I'll answer in order.
# 1 Same page as the Sneed letter. As I said "he is a columnist"
# 2 Most of them. Since you question me, tell me the parts of the act you would change.
# 3 No, they did not say to the world they would kill all people who were not from the same "tribe or ethnic group) or have the same religous beliefs of our forefathers. Really, Ben,a dumb question.
# 4 No
# 5 Yes, I want the world to be free, but protected from those in the world who would do us physical harm.
# 6 As to the government "has only to claim (we)are terrorists and it is so, the majority do not believe that at all.There are reasons behind all actions, even murderers and child rapists will try to justify their actions

Now a question to you Ben, how far left are you? You hide behind the name "Ben". You know my email address so let me know awho you are. I would like to know your background.


Hey Boyd,


Bob Sam' said...

You have been around long enough to recall the power the FBI had when J Edgar was in charge. I don't want to go back that kind of environment.

Will you share all your google/yahoo/,, search records with your name attached. I certainly will not share mine. I have examined the data that AOL published by error, I have a copy downloaded, and it reveals the innermost thoughts of an individual. Thoughts should be free of secret inspection, be it by your spouse, chief of police or the POPE, regardless of ANY and ALL circumstances. No I am not ready to allow, for any reason, this type of inspection of our citizens.

ben said...

Merle, I'll follow your lead and go in order...

1) Maybe I'm blind, but I don't see Mr. Pitts' column anywhere near Ms. Sneed's. If you are saying that it's on the same /physical/ page as the Sneed article... well, that doesn't help much.

2) Let's start with Section 505 of the USA PATRIOT Act, concerning 'National Security Letters'. I am somewhat relieved that it has since been ruled unconstitutional (pdf warning), but that's a little like feeling good about living in Haifa and surviving a single Katyusha bombardment.

3) I maintain that it's not a dumb question, but I don't see how it can be resolved based on any kind of factual or logical evidence. Let's move on...

4) Good to hear.

5) Of course we want both freedom and protection. This discussion is about where we draw the line between the two ideals.

6) If people realized the full extent of the government's power, they /would/ be afraid! At least, those who respect other people's freedoms enough to stop pissing themselves because of a relatively insignificant threat (to those of us in the USA, that is). I hope you realize what is happening before they come for you.

I do not appreciate the fact that you accuse me of hiding. I post as 'ben' because that is my name! Additionally, (as an intelligent and political person) you should know that left vs. right is a false dichotomy. Four-axis models (see here) are much more descriptive. On those scales, I generally fall into the 'socially liberal and fiscally conservative' quadrant.

Unless you fancy ad hominem attacks, it should not matter one lick who I am. Still, I'll be a good sport and make it easy for you to generalize; I'm in my mid-twenties, middle-class, born and raised in the American Midwest (though I only recently moved to IL).

Woodford Pundit said...

Profile, discriminate, and prejudge are words that have been hijacked from common sense English language usage. They have been stigmatized and negativized, and equated (very effectively) with racism.

I submit that all of these words are words for a normal human thinking process, and indeed, the processing function which they allude to is critical to human thought. Our brains simply cannot judge every input on it's own individual merit. Actually, we could never do it. The brain would 'melt-down'. Thus the human preoccupation with organizing and classifying information; the brain needs short-cuts to decisions - "oh, i know that shape; it's a tiger; I better run".

Prejudging is critical to human survival. So is discrimination - remember when one with good taste was described as a discriminating individual?

'Profiling' is nothing more than a starting point for classifying a potential threat. There is nothing wrong with it on an individual or policy basis as long as no one's civil rights are violated.

Tonya Sneed said...

So I should have stayed in Guatemala, huh?