Friday, August 12, 2005

The Folly of Heather MacDonald

MacDonald mounts a good tactical defense of racial profiling in this NR piece. She chooses her ground well by aiming her attack at an opponent who makes a weak case against profiling.

I think this whole debate is dangerous. Not just because it pointlessly increases ethnic tension, but also because it helps the terrorists learn how to defeat our defenses. By forcing the police to discuss and defend their screening procedures, the pro-profiling side is providing intelligence fodder for al Qaeda. It would be better if the police just said, "We are using a combination of random checks and behavior profiling" and left it at that.

What MacDonald, et. al. ignore is that the next attack might not look like the last one. AQ has not used Chechens, yet, but who is to say they will not start? Under the Krauthammer plan, a blond grandmotherly black widow is the perfect weapon.

One of the great triumphs of twentieth century intelligence work was the USSR's recruitment of the Cambridge spies in the UK and others like them. Stalin was helped enormously by out of date profiling in the UK and the US. The first Soviet agents were easy to spot because they were proletarian activists: they could not pass as bourgeois businessmen or White Russian officers. (The Poles, it is said, unmasked many fake Tsarist officers by asking them to tie a necktie. It was a skill many Bolsheviks had never had to master but which every officer could do easily.) Western counterintelligence groups ended up with a false sense of security.

Over time, the Russians learned. They found better handlers and recruiters and these recruited spies with impeccable Establishment credentials. No one wanted to believe that Alger Hiss or Kim Philby could be a traitor. When it became clear that Moscow was stealing British secrets the Brits went looking for some working class suspect-a janitor or maid or stenographer-anyone but Donald Maclean.

We do not want to make the same mistake with bin Laden. I doubt that AQ has the kind of gifted recruiters that the KGB had in the Thirties. But we should not rule it out. That pale girl in the frumpy coat and heavy backpack might just be your average San Francisco college student. Or she could be an ALF activist who thinks she is carrying a smoke bomb which will help publicize the evils of factory farming. Unbeknownst to her, the man who gave her the backpack is not named Deepak and he is not a disciple of Gandhi. He is really an AQ operative running a false flag operation. The package contains 15 pounds of Semtex studded with roofing nails and rat poison. The timer is set to go off twenty minutes earlier than little Kristin thinks it will.

In MacDonald and Krauthammer's world, she is going to get on that rush hour train with her backpack.

See also:
The wrong war, on the wrong issue, at the wrong time

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