Musings from a Member
of the Criminal Class
November 18, 2001
I am a target of
Little me, who doesn't drink, smoke, or swear.
Little me, who kisses his mother good night when
visiting and supports the Boy Scouts.
Little me, who hasn't had a speeding ticket for the
better part of a decade.
I am a member of the Criminal Class. Look, here's
I learned this at the airport--make that, at many
airports--over the last several weeks. It seemed that every time I
flew, the airline's computer "randomly" selected me for a manual
baggage search--both at the main counter for checked luggage and at the
gate for carry-ons.
After the sixth time, I mentioned to the ticket counter
agent that if this is random, I should go to Las Vegas and make a fortune.
She then said the magic words: It wasn't random at
all; as a young male traveling alone, I am flagged in their system
for extra evaluation.
After that, I paid attention to who was being searched.
Sure enough, it was primarily young males of all ethnic backgrounds who
were traveling alone, and males who appeared to be Middle-Eastern, even if
they were traveling with a woman.
In the news recently was the story of a young, male
student from Nepal who was traveling alone and was flagged for search at
the boarding gate. He was found to have somehow passed through the
initial security checkpoint with over a dozen knives and box cutters in
Maybe he was a terrorist, or maybe he was just a moron.
(Of course, he could have been both.) Either way, he shouldn't be on
that plane with those knives
There has been a great deal of debate during the last
few years about criminal profiling as a means of more effective deployment
of law enforcement resources.
A lot of people have found a way to be offended by this,
saying that even if they fit a profile that many criminals do, it is
unfair to single them out for more attention. To that I say:
And I can say it as a "victim" of profiling
Each and every one of the hijackers of September 11th
were young males checking in separately. Each and every one of the
suspects in the actual physical process of the 1993 World Trade Center
bombing was a young male. Each of the criminals convicted in the
Oklahoma City bombing was a young male.
They weren't young women. They weren't old women.
They were young males.
Yet there are those who would say that it is unfair to
direct security resources disproportionately towards a particular group.
They prefer that we dilute resources across the entire population in order
to be "fair."
You know, I wouldn't feel safer if they diverted limited
security resources away from young males traveling alone to more old women
traveling with their grandchildren.
Here's to hoping that common sense still has a foothold
somewhere in the Land of the Free.
So as I journey to the far corners of this great land of
ours, I expect to be singled out, searched, checked, delayed, and annoyed.
And I am angry about it.
But my anger is not focused on the security apparatus;
it is directed toward those young males who have behaved in such a way as
to make such a process necessary.
So I, a member of the Criminal Class, agree that they
ought to search me in airports.
Does that make me insensitive?
P.S. Oh, and by the way, if you're a young male
traveling alone, I suggest that the advice your mother gave you years ago
applies here too.
Remember when she said to always wear clean underwear,
in case you were injured and had to go to the emergency room?
Well, mom was right in more ways than one.
Criminal Class Members, make sure that there is nothing in your luggage
that you don't want the pretty girl searching it to see...