While we're on the subject of political ads, some attention should be paid to this real gem that Greg Sargent highlighted today, from someone named Dan Fanelli, who is one of the plethora of people running against Representative Alan Grayson (D-Fla.).
There's nothing confusing about this ad! Basically, Fanelli advocates his unique counter-terror action plan: "Let's Frisk All The Swarthy People, At The Airports!"
I sort of don't understand his call to "end the violation of our privacy" alongside a call to violate the privacy of a whole group of people, do you? Seems like he should be saying, "It's time to start violating the privacy of people who look Qu'ran-ish."
Fanelli talked to Sargent about this ad:
In an interview, I asked Fanelli if the message of the spot was that darker people are more likely to be terrorists.
He said it wasn't, claiming that the ad's point was that people from countries like Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Syria "require a higher level of security."
Of course, the Christmas Crotchfire bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, is from Nigeria, and basically looks like an American. And this is one of the reasons why actual grown-ups who work in the security field don't have a high opinion of racial profiling:
A group of senior US intelligence specialists combatting terrorism is circulating a memo to American law enforcement agents worldwide cautioning against profiling based on race, nationality or other characteristics.
In their memo, titled "Assessing Behaviors," and in interviews with the Globe, the officials said that any profile based on personal characteristics or personality draws an investigator's attention toward too many innocent people, and away from too many dangerous ones.
The authors urge investigators to look at "what a person has done and plans to do, rather than who that person is."
They offer a series of questions for investigators to ponder. The questions encourage officials to stay focused on behaviors that might indicate that a terrorist is selecting targets, recruiting and
organizing members, acquiring skills, assessing vulnerabilities of targets, acquiring financing, probing boundaries, communicating with conspirators, using insiders, maintaining secrecy, assimilating into Western culture, and acquiring weapons.
"A lot of people are asking, 'What does a terrorist look like?'" another of the memo's authors said. "How does it help you protect the water supply to know that these terrorists were Arabs? If I have a profile, I'm looking for people who match a picture. We need to look for a set of attack-related behaviors."
Actual studies confirm that racial profiling is no more useful than just screening people at random. What those studies have failed to do, of course, is scare people into voting them into office.