Security Expert Bruce Schneier Responds to Sam Harris

Security expert Bruce Schneier has taken Sam Harris to task on his proposal to profile Muslims at the airport. I don’t have time to analyze the back and forth right now (it’s late; I’m tired) but I still think it sets a good example when Harris offer up his own site for a guest post that includes this opening:

Why do otherwise rational people think it’s a good idea to profile people at airports? Recently, neuroscientist and best-selling author Sam Harris related a story of an elderly couple being given the twice-over by the TSA, pointed out how these two were obviously not a threat, and recommended that the TSA focus on the actual threat: “Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim.”

This is a bad idea. It doesn’t make us any safer — and it actually puts us all at risk.

Harris says he’ll respond to Schneier soon.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Gus Snarp

    I just hope Harris actually responds.

    So far he’s just blown smoke and built straw men. Schneier makes the case so well and so clearly that I hope Harris will show that he’s actually listening.

    What Harris makes so abundantly clear is that profiling, or indeed any of the security theater, is simply unnecessary. It’s a huge, expensive, disproportionate response to a fairly small threat from a very small segment of the population, or even of the Muslim population if you feel the need to go there, a threat that is being handled and controlled in many other ways that we often don’t even notice.

    • Gus Snarp

      Um, that last paragraph should say “What SCHNEIER makes so abundantly clear…”. What Harris makes so abundantly clear is that his emotions (mostly fear and anger) cloud his judgment on this issue.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=593675787 Glenn Davey

      Maybe he’s opened just… you know… opened a dialogue? Why does everything gotta be war of words? Right and wrong? People turning away in disgust and rage because someone suggests some things in a post? It’s not very scholarly… or rational.

      “Rational community”…

      • Gus Snarp

        I don’t even know what you’re talking about. Is this even a response to my post? Did you transpose your two replies?

      • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

        “Right and wrong?”

        Because some things are right, and some are wrong. No amount of respect for other opinions is going to make 2+2=73.6, and nor is it going to make Sam Harris right about this.

        • brianmacker

          Show your math.   Schneier tried to show his and failed.

      • Lucilius

        So were I to post “All black people are untrustworthy” (which, for the terminally literal-minded, I will plainly state that I do not believe or endorse) – would you consider that to be “opening a dialogue,” just because it’s going to provoke immediate (and justified) refutation and denunciation?

        What’s truly irrational is to treat any statement as equal to any other, taking no account of anything we’ve learned that enables us to winnow wheat from chaff. Blanket suspicion of anyone based on shaky and subjective assumptions, such as judging ideology solely by appearance, has been discredited for decades if not centuries. Creationists get dismissed out of hand; racists get dismissed out of hand; and rightly so: there’s no profit for anyone in rehashing debates long settled.

        • brianmacker

          He didn’t post “All Muslims are untrustworthy”.

          • Lucilius

            What a feeble attempt at misdirection.

            Profiling all Muslims, and any he happens to think look Muslim, as likely to blow up a plane is inherently an expression of distrust.

            • brianmacker

              No it is a recognition of what ideology motivates the behavior.

              • Lucilius

                Linking ideology to a subjective judgment of appearance – especially when said ideology is erroneously conflated with a particular religion – merely exposes your motivation: not security, not rationality, just atavistic xenophobia.

                • brianmacker

                  Except I was for open borders until 9/11 came about.   So your theory is falsified.   That is unless you think being an anti-Nazi is also about xenophobia, which would be a different definition.  Funny thing is that using your logic I’m also xenophobic of my birth religion.

                  The fact that you can’t identify muslims solely by appearance was already covered by Harris in his first article.   In fact it is implicit in the sentence, “Muslims and those who look like Muslims”.    Too bad you aren’t very good at deducing why people say things.  Try reading the articl and not just the snippet “Those who look like Muslims”.

                • Lucilius

                  Yes, yes, of course you were all for open borders before your eyes were opened to the Islamofascist Threat, or the International Jew, or the Yellow Peril, or the Negro Barbarians, or whichever bogeyman you’re playing up this week to rationalize your hysteria.

                  Harris’ throwaway line that we shouldn’t totally ignore apparent non-Muslims is just that: an empty gesture. By focusing resources primarily on a particular set of physical or cultural features, you merely tell intended terrorists what looks to avoid, defeating your own purpose.

                • brianmacker

                  You can line up all the pictures of those Islamist suicide attackers on airplanes and you won’t find the rainbow. Most of them come from one country. They’ve all been Muslims or people who look like Muslims. The don’t look like 6 year year old mormon girls.

                  My open borders position was that anyone could move here if they wished so long as the had no criminal background. Now I don’t believe followers of certain fundamentalist Islamic sects which teach bigotry against non-muslims should be allowed in. Like the followers of the one eyed sheik. My eyes were opened to the fact that there are people who wish us harm out of pure bigotry.

                • brianmacker

                  The religion is the ideology I was talking about. Not every person who self identifies as belonging to an ideology follows its teachings. Not all Catholics refrain from birth control. The founding document and founder of Islam teach terrorism, Jihad, suicide attacks (although they prefer to think of that as martyrdom.

                • Lucilius

                  Don’t bother lecturing me on Islam; got a Quran on the shelf. It also teaches love and tolerance, just as the Bible endorses murder, incest and slavery on some pages while calling for forgiveness and generosity on others. Inconsistency in both the text and its application make attempts to pin a sweeping ideology on cherry-picked verses a fool’s game.

                • brianmacker

                  Love and tolerance other Muslims.    The Nazis were all about fellowship, exercise, and workers rights.   But not for Jews.

                  Funny but all those many quotes calling Jews greedy, Idolators worthy of death, and telling Muslims to go out an murder people for their possessions are cherry picked.

                   Go ahead, pull your quotes of “love and tolerance” out and I will destroy your bullshit.  Such quotes are in fact the cherry picked ones, and imbedded in the overwhelmingly violent text.   Most of them are a sentence or two away from vile nonsense.

                  I’m not a Christian so don’t pull that tu quoque nonsense with me.     At one time those violent quotes did inspire violence, slavery, etc.   At one time  Christians showed up on your shores you could be fairly certain bad things would happen.

                • Lucilius

                  Buzz! Game over, thanks for playing.

                  I knew you were headed for a Godwin pretty soon. Not that you’ll ever recognize or acknowledge it, because you’re thoroughly demented. You’ve been driven ’round the bend by obsessive hate.

                  I fully expect to see you on the evening news soon, being led away raving after shooting up a Muslim preschool. When the court-appointed psychiatrists ask why you did it, you’ll wave your manifesto: a sweat-soaked 546-page mass of jumbled words and numbers that “absolutely PROVES” they were all going to grow up to be terrorists anyway.

                  Your fundamental ignorance of the Quran (par for the course, really) is clear: no, it’s not “overwhelmingly violent.” The vast, vast majority of it has little to do with tolerating others or fighting them. I take your boasting about “destroying” me with a box of salt, in light of your confused and sorry performance thus far.

                  So go on, rage away, splutter and fume with your stomach-gnawing hatred. Consider this your final condsecending pat on the head. I can only hope you’re already under adult supervision, and that they just let you post gibberish and watch 24-hour Fox News because it keeps you from gnawing the straps.

      • http://user-illusion.myopenid.com/ user illusion

        That’s a stunningly anti-intellectual comment, Glenn. When Harris or anyone else makes claims, they are expected to support them.

    • brianmacker

      Unlike the smoke blow and straw man Harris’s opponents have been blowing.    Like the straw man of changing the phrase “Muslims and those who look Muslim” into merely “T hose who look Muslim”, or the ad hominem of calling him a racist.

      “Those who look Muslim” is meant to handle those cases where guys who are Muslim (like Osama) get false passports that list them as coming from countries other than their country of origin, or who lie about their country of origin or religion when asked.   Presumably you’d ask people to identify if they are Muslim to implement the policy, yet use other criteria for weeding out fakers.  

      Currently we search everyone equally, and you dont think that is a “huge, expensive, disproprotionate response to …” in even greater proportion.    Clearly if we are overdoing it when handling 1% of the population (the muslims) then we are really over doing it when we subject 100% of the population.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        It’s only an ad hominem to say Sam is wrong because he’s a racist.  Just saying he’s a racist is just a red herring.

        • brianmacker

          Which is exactly what was done in the other thread by several people. As in if I said why should anyone listen to you because you are a moron instead of addressing your argument.

          Another tactic was to argue that Harris was wrong n torture ergo he’s wrong on this subject.

        • Gus Snarp

          But it’s neither ad hominem nor a red herring to say that profiling people based on their cultural grouping is a racist idea. 

          • brianmacker

            Unless you are wrong. Let’s see, if I was a black In the antebellum south escaping from slavery and I made it a point to hide from any whites as I headed north then by your definition that would be racism. A Jew escaping from Germany hiding from German’s, that’s racism. You apparently think a religion is a cultural grouping, so profiling on a dating site to match up with a coreligionist is racism. Avoiding members of biker gangs, again racism. So on and so forth.

  • JA

    I know a lot of Muslims and you really can’t say someone looks Muslim. My next door neighbors are Vietnamese Muslims who wear no religious garb. Even their teenage daughters wear shorts and t-shirts. I know Muslims who are white. I know one who has red hair. Others are indistinguishable from Hindus. I know Jews who look like Arabs. Most of the Muslims I have met wear Western clothing, so you can’t spot them based on that.

    You could try profiling based on names but it would be easy enough for a determined terrorist to get a fake ID. If you profile based on who looks Muslim, you would be looking at a really small portion of the Muslim population and probably a fairly large portion of the Jewish and Hindu populations because they are more likely to fit the stereotype of what a Muslim looks like.

  • I_Claudia

    I will be sincerely surprised if Harris makes any recognition that he is wrong. Hopefully he’ll at least address the actual points made by Schneier and not merely straw-man and decry others calling him racist.

    I’d also really appreciate it if he could finally explain to us what he thinks a Muslim looks like.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=593675787 Glenn Davey

      You’re assuming Sam Harris is a human with biases and hubris. He is not. He is a meditation robot, and is far more rational than your puny emotion-based mind could fathom.

      • Jaime D.

         (facepalm)

        • Mael Radec

          >Joke

          >Head

          • brianmacker

            Toi(joke)let.

      • http://user-illusion.myopenid.com/ user illusion

        Looking at this together with your other comment above, Glenn, I’d say you’re a trollbot.

    • brianmacker

      I will be sincerely suprised if you make any recognition that you are wrong.   Unfortunately you didn’t address actual points Harris made, nor did you read Schneier with any understanding of the math he failed to use properly, and you fail to recognize that calling someone a racist is an ad homenim attack and deserves decrying (or being ignored if it were so vile).

      • Pseudonym

        I’d be most interested to see your analysis of Schneier’s maths.

        • brianmacker

          Already posted.

          • Pseudonym

            Yes, I discovered your “analysis” after I posted that. Responded to.

  • Michael

    I note that of the three main people involved in the two recent underpants bomb plots, only one of them looks such that I would think of him as probably muslim.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Haven’t looked at the latest one, but it’s worth pointing out that screening didn’t catch the 1st two guys, profiled or random.

      • brianmacker

        So maybe we shouldn’t be screening anyone.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          Depends on exactly what you mean by screening, but probably no.  Although it is hard to measure the deterrent factor.  But I don’t think it’s much, in particular for people who are willing to die for their cause.

        • Pseudonym

          That’s exactly what Schneier proposes in his piece. He points out that there is no conceivable terror plot which has a significant chance of evading normal security and being caught by secondary screening.

          The purpose of the TSA is not security. It’s pure theatre, designed to make it appear that the government is doing something useful. All terrorists who are caught are caught by careful detective work long before their plots reach the airport. But the public demands that there be a visible presence at the airport, whether or not it does any good.

  • popeyoni

    Profiling is wrong for moral reasons. I’m glad it is also wrong for practical reasons.

    • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

       I feel the same way about torture.

      • brianmacker

        I feel the same way about Islam.

    • brianmacker

      No it isn’t.

  • The Captain

    Harris’s original rant mentioned children as people we should not be searching, in favor of middle age brow people. 

    Then just today…..Gun parts found in boy’s stuffed animals at Rhode Island airport – CNN.com

    • The Captain
    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_K5KGZH6OZGNABUMZRJA46XUMXE Brad

       It was not a “rant” just because you disagreed with it.

      • The Captain

        no, it was a “rant” the second he used the meaningless phrase “political correctness”.

      • http://user-illusion.myopenid.com/ user illusion

        It was not not a rant just because you don’t want to admit that it was a rant.

    • brianmacker

      … And the kid wasn’t a Muslim terrorist either.

  • John Purcell

    I’m going to take a contrary view, for the sake of argument only. I have not made up my mind just yet.

    It seems to me profiling is to be used in conjunction with what we are already doing  (machine scans, pat-downs, judgment calls). It’s not proposed, as far as I can tell, as an alternative to normal screening. In effect, it’s an attempt to add another tool to the toolbox of prevention.

    So if we are allowed to use our natural inclination that someone who looks like a sterotypical terrorst may actually be one, with a resultant heightened exam of that person, why does that necessarily reduce the potential for success? If he/she passes the exam, no harm, no foul (other than some sense of a violation of liberty and freedom).

    I think the best argument Schneier made was that if we focus on profiling, we’ll let down our guard against those who will do their best  to not fit the profile. But then, won’t all the other screening processes we have in place fill that gap?

    • Sarah T.

       But Scheier argues (and I agree) that racial (or religious) profiling does have a cost, and you have to weigh that cost against the benefits. The costs are (1) you alienate the very population that you should be working with to identify threats, and (2) you signal to actual terrorists exactly what measures they have to take to lower their chance of getting caught. If the TSA starts screening only people who appear to be Muslim males, then terrorists will (heck, they already have) just use some other cohort. And when the TSA screens that cohort, they’ll choose another one. ETC ETC until we’re just “secondary screening” everyong. And what is the benefit? For every 8 million ‘Muslim-looking’ people you screen, you catch 1 terrorist? And piss off 7,999,999 other Muslims?

      Basically, everyone (especially Sam Harris) needs to go out and watch The Battle of Algiers, which was made in 1966 anticipating these same old arguments about terrorisim and security that we’re having today.

      • John Purcell

         Well, I’m not Muslim and wouldn’t fit the profile, and I’m already pissed off about screening. So piss off some or piss off all of them? What’s the difference?

        And seriously, do you really think anyone in the TSA is not already profiling? They see someone that looks like a Muslim, or someone carrying a Koran, or wearing a hajib, and their awareness of them is heightened. They don’t need a policy to do what Harris is suggesting. It’s already being done. It’s similar to Schneier’s sheep/wolf analogy. We are designed to see predators, whether we know it or not, and will subconsciously profile those that look like a threat.

        • Kevin Kirkpatrick

          Certainly you can appreciate the difference between:
          POLICY 1: ALL PEOPLE MUST STAND ON ONE FOOT IN ORDER TO USE THE DRINKING FOUNTAIN.
          POLICY 2: ALL BLACK PEOPLE MUST STAND ON ONE FOOT IN ORDER TO USE THE DRINKING FOUNTAIN.

          Yes, policy 1 would certainly annoy all people of all colors.  Can you see that policy 2 might make blacks just a *tad* more annoyed, and feeling justa *tad* more alienated than policy 1?

          • http://user-illusion.myopenid.com/ user illusion

            Seeing that requires empathy.

            • brianmacker

              No, reading that and assuming it is relevant requires stupidity. The above is arbitrary. There is no rational reason for asking only the blacks to stand on one foot, and precisely because there is no rationale for asking anyone to. There may be a ration reason for requiring racial differences. Like no white kids allowed out the sun without sun block, whereas black kids are allowed. Note that blacks need way more sun than whites to remain heathy so one size fits all sun block policies are bound to hurt someone. It is not always the case that racially neutral policies are rational, nor that racially unequal ones are naturally racist.

              If you believe in affirmative action does that mean you lack empathy? It fits the example. Think before you start with the claims of moral turpitude on the part of those who actually think before agreeing with your shallow and ignorant examples and deductions.

          • dylan

            I’m not sure the prejudice white Americans historically have/had against blacks is the same as the prejudice some currently have against Muslims.

            The prejudice against Muslims at least has some basis in reality.  There is a very small percentage of Muslims who would  kill and have killed innocent civilian Americans strictly because we are American. (I suppose my argument might need to ignore US foreign policy decisions.)

            As far as prejudice against blacks..well I guess I’m not sure how that originated to be honest.  But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because of any safety concerns white Americans had due to a small and violent percentage of the persecuted group.

            To be clear I’m not using my argument to justify profiling Muslims at the airport.  I just wanted to point out that I don’t believe your comparison was truly equivalent.

  • kenneth

    There absolutely should be profiling, but not based upon narrow assumptions about Muslims or who we think is Muslim. Security should focus the bulk of its attention on those people who intelligence and experience demonstrate to be higher risks. These days, the facts demonstrate that such risks are more likely than not to be Muslims. In the past, the mix would have included many European members of extremist left-wing groups, Tamil separatists etc.  To the extent Muslims represent a disproportionate security threat, we should be profiling accordingly. But that doesn’t mean assuming every Muslim or Middle Eastern person we see at an airport is a potential terrorists. It simply means we should focus more of our attention on that subset of Muslims who are most often recruited and used by terror groups. Most will be relatively young men from a relative handful of countries and will have certain peculiarities in their travel patterns and histories, personal and professional backgrounds.  Not all of them will prove to be terrorists either, but they warrant much closer scrutiny than the random 80-year old Midwestern granny.
       
     Part of the security game is, of course, unpredictability. While unlikely, it’s not inconceivable that Al Queda will one day successfully recruit an 80-year old granny from Minnesota, and we don’t want to give an obvious free pass to anyone. That said, the current system is a very unfunny joke. It treats everyone from 2 to 90 regardless of profile, as an equal terrorism threat. Security lines are SO overcrowded and overtaxed focusing on everyone that it’s just a numbers game. A traditional Yemeni or Saudi terrorist will slip through that net sooner or later just by taking advantage of that chaos and security team fatigue etc.  We ought to take a page from the Israelis and learn to do some intelligent profiling. They learned a long time ago, and the hard way, that focused screening works.  Their system is based on the premise that the profiles of legitimate travelers – all of the details of who they are and where they are going, add up, as it were.  The big picture for shady people – potential terrorists – do not add up. There are always red flags in what’s going on with them that will always be found if you know how to read people and interview them and do a bit of background search on them. 

    • The Captain

      “That said, the current system is a very unfunny joke. It treats everyone from 2 to 90 regardless of profile, as an equal terrorism threat.”
      http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/08/travel/stuffed-animals-gun-parts/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

      • brianmacker

        … And you link to a case where it was not an terrorism incident, and they just let the guy walk away. What are the odds of that particular scheme, as compared to terrorist and other hijackings. Much less. So if you use the security experts math they never should have found that weapon. Yet they did depute the “vanishing remote odds”. Why? Because even vanishingly remote odds become certainties when you repeat them enough. The idiot expert calculated the odds if the TSA were only allowed to search one passenger per year. Dopey, yes?

    • brianmacker

      Now this I agree with.

  • http://twitter.com/Skepgineer skepgineer

    Whoever they profile, the enemy will use agents that don’t fit the profile, like the women in the Battle of Algiers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Austin-Carnes/1034156402 Austin Carnes

    He’s hardly taken Harris to task. He’s simply explaining why profiling isn’t effective. Bruce says that Harris is wrong from an effectiveness standpoint not a moral or ethical one. “The right way to look at security is in terms of cost-benefit trade-offs. If adding profiling to airport checkpoints allowed us to detect more threats at a lower cost, than we should implement it.” I actually think this rebuttal was great for Harris. People weren’t upset because profiling might be effective. They were upset at even the notion that it should be used. Clearly Bruce isn’t against the use of profiling if/when it’s effective.

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      Um, no. People were upset that Harris was proposing doing something objectionable based on entirely spurious grounds. That it’s ineffective is fundamental to the criticism.

      • Zeggman

         Um, yes. Schneier points out that profiling “the class of people about to board a plane” is just as objectionable as profiling “the class of people about to board a plane who resemble Muslims”.

        TSA’s body scans and pat downs should be eliminated. They’re intrusive theater which are likely to result in thousands of false positives and unlikely to result in thwarting an actual terrorist plot. They’re an expensive drain on productivity for very little benefit. Yes, I’m counting “peace of mind” placebo effect as a benefit.

        I do think strip search/pat down planes could be offered by individual airlines, for those who enjoy security theater. For the rest, just go back to x-ray screening of carry on bags and a stroll through metal detectors for passengers. If planes blow up once in a while, that’s just the cost of convenience. I would much rather patronize planes with a 1 in a million chance of exploding than put up with delays and pat-downs for planes with a 1 in 2 million chance of exploding.

        • brianmacker

          This might actually be a good argument.   Keep in mind that it would give people even more “peace of mind” if muslims were more throughly searched than others.   So from a theater aspect it also makes sense to profile.

          • Lucilius

            Yeah, because using legal authority to reinforce stereotypes and encourage inaccurate assessments of real security is exaaaaaactly what the government should be doing.

            • brianmacker

              It’s not about “stereotypes”. It’s about inspecting those who support the ideology that advocates the bad behavior. I like it when people quote statistics saying 80% of American Muslims are against terrorism like that is a good thing.

              • Lucilius

                I like it when people trying to hide their raving bigotry behind straw men. The Laurel-and-Hardy show of ineptitude is hilarious.

                • brianmacker

                  I don’t like it when morons don’t support their claims and merely assume because their personal tastes are offended that they are correct. Who provide nothing to the conversation that ignorant strawman assumptions about the positions of others. Making you the raving bigot.

                  I’ve shown, using math, that profiling is less costly than searching everyone, and that is enough to dispel claims that Harris is motivated by racism.

                • Lucilius

                  Are you just picking words out of a dictionary and hoping they mean something? Disliking and exposing bigotry is not itself bigotry.

                  You have “proven” exactly nothing, no matter how much you impress yourself by performing basic math. It costs even less to search no one, or to search one person. What’s at issue Is whether profiling is effective; whether it causes more harm than it prevents, by alienating its targets; and whether doing so in any case is discriminatory and unethical. You keep trying to dance around such questions. Like a drunken elephant.

                  The answer is made obvious by the ridiculously flimsy criterion Harris proposes and you accept unquestioningly: that we should target anyone who “looks Muslim,” an entirely subjective judgment.

                  And the only people who think that’s acceptable are, in fact, the actual definition of bigots.

                  Like you.

                • JN

                  He’s dancing around the real questions because he knows that we’re right.

                  Deep down, under all the tough-talking and rhetorical bullshit, he is just another dime-a-dozen xenophobe who fears and dislikes Muslims in general, and therefore doesn’t give a shit about them or their rights.

                  He realizes that the more he is pressed, the more obvious this will become.

                • brianmacker

                  There is no right to board a plane without being searched, and therefore no one’s rights have been threatened. You really have zero idea what you are talking about. I do in fact care about Muslims actual rights the same as everyone else’s. For example Muslim’s have the right to carry firearms just like everyone else. Muslim’s have the right to free speech, etc.

                  For example, my Muslim coworker mentioned that his immigrant Muslim friend’s husband had been killed while working construction on the highway. He was not soliciting charity and I volunteered that I wanted to give her some help. I donated $100. Hardly the actions of a bigot.

                  Your predictions about me are ridiculous, and your understanding of rights are warped.

                • JN

                  Douchecake gave a Muslim money once, and therefore isn’t a bigot, even though he lumps all Muslims under the same ideological banner and supports discriminatory measures on that basis. Who do you think is buying this bullshit?
                  Go back to FreeRepublic.

                • brianmacker

                  Not what I said. I said that searching everyone costs more than just searching Muslims, for Muslim extremists. I was countering the boo hoo story of oh the Muslims might be insulted with the fact that their religion is a vile cesspool of hate, and the polling numbers show this has an effect on their beliefs (as does a ton of other evidence). I’m not supporting any “discriminatory measures” unless you mean discriminating terrorists from non-terrorists more efficiently given what we already do. Of course, you can’t have it that way. If their weren’t any Muslim suicide bombers, or if this was a issue with all religions and philosophies, then there would be no savings in using profiling, and I’d be against it, despite what a vile cesspool of hate and intolerance Islam is.

                  There’s nothing for anyone else to “buy”. I’m the ultimate authority on my opinions and beliefs not some moron on the Internet. This FreeRepublic nonsense is as wacky as the rest of your claims about me. you want me to mock you some more with the same ckinds of unfounded claims about you. I can do that if you haven’t caught on yet. I can tell you to go back to your favorite Al Queda site.

                  Giving direct unsolicited charity to a Muslim “once” is probably one more time than you have.

                  If abortion clinics were on planes then I’d prefer they profile Christians than everybody, but since it doesn’t actually say anything in the bible against abortion I’d restrict it to the sects that actually teach abortion is murder. So much for your assumption that I’m some kinda Christian.

                  You are exactly like those morons who were accusing me of being a racist for my position on the Trayvon Martin case. Unfortunately for them in that case I had a prior comment posted on a web site tha was pro-Trayvon that I was able to link to. They were oh so absolutely sure that my position was purely racist. Little did they know I had changed my mind purely on the change in reported evidence. I might just change my mind again, who knows?

                  Sam Harris was right though. There are certain issues where it just can’t be about the facts. No, it’s a religious issue. BTW, I don’t think you are a terrorist supporter. Just toying with you. I think you are a moron.

                • brianmacker

                  Your bigotry lies in assuming that anyone who disagrees with you on this issue is motivated by bigotry.  Like you Bigot.   You think you are a mind reader and you don’t even bother to read written by those who hold opposing opinions.

                  The math is correct, and the reason you cannot grasp that is that you are a moron.    The odds that an Islamic terrorist is Muslim is 100%.   So when you are out to catch suicide bombers blowing up US airliners you are looking for a Muslim, not some blond christian 5 year old.

                  Now there are plenty of other reasons to search all bags, even those of 5 year old blond christians. There are plenty of other reasons to do plenty of other things.  Harris actually discussed this fact in the first article, but you ignore that because it would falsify your own bigotry.

                  Harris has a narrow point, and the math works on this.   Guess what, if you are looking for Muslim terrorists then you don’t have to search Christians. Jews, etc. for the purpose of determining whether they are terrorists.   So for instance checking everyones underwear is stupid, because do you really think a Muslim terrorist is going to be able to sneak a bomb into your underwear.   Whereas, as Harris pointed out at the beginning checking everyones bags makes sense. 

                  Now of course it is hard to tell who is Muslim.   But guess what,  it’s a tiny fraction of everyone else.     Also, guess what, you can do random searches, and do it preferentially against Muslims and still be more efficient.

                  Searching doesn’t merely serve the purpose of finding something, it also acts as a deterrent.  Which even I forget some times.    We search because it is in fact effective to a certain extent.

                  Your problem is that you can’t support your position, didn’t bother to understand Harris’s, and so turn to your bigotry for comfort.

                • Lucilius

                  You have no actual arguments, so you keep screaming “bigot!” at anyone who points that out; but once again, you demonstrate exactly the opposite.

                  I (and others) argue for treating everyone equally; you argue for discrimination; therefore, the rest of us are bigots. Such utter imbecility merits no further comment.

                  It’s not a question of whether your frantic numerical scribbling is correct – it’s merely irrelevant, because you start from a false premise: that only a Muslim, and only someone recognizably Muslim at that, would be carrying a bomb in an unlikely place. The stupidity of this claim is obvious to anyone who’s read about the tactics used by drug smugglers, and – even more applicable – by suicide bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan. When the usual suspects became suspect, they started using the mentally handicapped, coerced children … anyone who didn’t fit The Profile. Was that more difficult? Sure; but it’s not an easy task to get a bomb on a plane anyway, so the additional step is hardly likely to thwart it. And whether y0u’re talking bombs or hijacking, what about converts, who often become more fanatical about religion than those raised in it? Tell me John Walker Lindh, shaven and in a business suit, wouldn’t have walked right through a checkpoint manned by Sam Harris and brianmacker.

                  You know it’s true. But you’d rather concoct an excuse to stick your hands down a Muslim’s pants, just for the joy of seeing them humiliated.

                • brianmacker

                  I don’t make the stupid assumptions you attribute to me and Harris’s original article refutes your nonsense too. You are having an argument with an imaginary straw man opponent.

                  A bigot is not someone who treats people differently based on their espoused ideology. You tell me you are a Nazi and of course I’m going to treat you differently. Islam is a religion who’s founder ethnically cleansed the Saudi peninsula, and then wrote a book more unabashedly bigoted than Mein Kampf. You’d be stupid not to treat the follower of such an ideology differently.

                  You don’t have an argument and that is why you are doing nothing but redefining words and accusing people of your equivocations so others might think they have the same meaning.

                  You’ve got nothing.

                • brianmacker

                  The more effective methods being espoused for preventing suicide attacks are about infiltrating Islamic organizations. Guess what, they haven’t been infiltrating Jewish ones, or Jain ones, or Buddhist ones. Why? Because those religions don’t espouse suicide bombing with an eternal reward in the afterlife. Does a moron like you think that such “discrimination” (there’s a loaded word useful for the equivocation of morons) is evidence of bigotry when it is effective. Who the hell cares, you are a moron.

                  I’ve only called one guy a bigot and that’s because he exhibited bigotry, which is, not what you define it to be. He assumed that I held certain beliefs because I’m not agreeing with him. That is he assumed certain attributes about me because I was in a different class than him on some separate attribute. The moron thinks that everyone who is opposed to the obviously stupid behavior of checking some little girl who is obviously not Christian means I hold a whole other set of beliefs I don’t. You’ve just done the same thing yourself. Next you’ll be claiming I want to eat babies. All because I think it more probable a Muslim will wear an underwear bomb on the plane than Britney Spears, or Justin Beiber. That’s not bigotry. That’s a fact. Live with it. Breath it. understand it.

                  That fact means that you are more likely to find an underwear bomb on a Muslim. So if you search everyone expecting them to be trying to smuggle that on the plane you are doing extra work. Simple logic. No bigotry.

                  I like how morons characterize other people’s writings as frantic, make baloney assumptions, and use “we” like they are have a multiple personality disorder. What false claims are “we” going to come up with next? Hell, you are probably one of those cowards who uses sock puppets, so maybe that’s the we that is so afraid someone will listen to me.

              • JN

                “those who support the ideology that advocates the bad behavior?”

                What kind of handwaving, idiotic rhetoric is this? Are you trying to say that simply BEING Muslim makes someone accountable for the actions of terrorists?

                If so, Lucilius is correct: you are spewing bigotry and ignorance. You are certainly NOT helping Sam’s case.

                • brianmacker

                  I like it how the fact that you are ignorant leads you to assume I’m ignorant. Islam advocates Jihad, terrorism, oppression, and bigotry. That’s a fact. It also in fact defames non-Muslims in a way that that justifies the commission of crimes against them. Furthermore it sets up a motive for committing these crimes by claiming that an infinite reward awaits those who commits such crimes. Muslims to various degrees bear moral responsibility for their membership and or advocation of the tenets of Islam. I can explain in detail how and why and be quite specific about it. Their culpability and kind of moral responsibility depends on all kinds of factors. At the very least they are morally negligent given the ample evidence that their religion supports bad behavior.

                  This runs the gamut of being a cowardly non-believer who self identifies as Muslim and therefore gives it unjustified support, through to being an active member and financial supporter of a mosque who’s imam directly calls for violence against non-Muslims, to one who actually sets a bomb with the intent to kill someone.

                  The Qur’an and the actions of Mohammad are NOT peaceful. Someone who falsely claims they are peaceful and at the same time that they are infallible bears some moral responsibility when another has been convinced of the latter, and then acts on the actual instructions in the Qur’an. This is pretty much the same way one would be responsible for an instruction manual that clearly leads to injury. This is especially true if one is teaching this to impressionable children and actively suppressing evidence to the contrary.

                  If you teach your kid that the bible is infallible (without pointing out exactly why adovocation of criminality in the bible is overridden) and then you bear some responsibility should the follow any instructions to persecute gays [as an example]. Now it is possible that no one takes such passages literally, and one can tell because there are no incidents of gay attacks or persecution (or witch burning). However if there is rare instances of such crimes that the believer is aware of it becomes his responsibility to no longer call the text infallible and to specifically condemn the passages and actions in question. This is especially true where such crime are happening on a regular basis. It is NOT enough to lie about the contents of the text, as this naturally allows the person actually committing the crimes to deduce support for their actions from your claims.

                  There are difference in culpability here just as there with members of the KKK or Nazis. Modern wannabe Nazis are far less culpable for crimes against Jews committed by the Nazis than actual German party members in Hitlers Germany, and even less than Germans stock the ovens in the concentration camps. There however a moral responsibility which comes from supporting an ideology that one should understand (or are negligent not to understand) is the source of past monstrosity. One also bears the moral and perhaps criminal responsibility for the continuing defamation of Jews that the ideology foments.

                  I could write a book on my moral reasoning here. It isn’t hand waving. Nor has anything I’ve said indicate I was (as your straw man goes) holding all muslims responsible to the same degree I would a terrorist. Being taken aside to be searched in order to have the privileged of riding on the plane invented and owned by the people your religion defames is hardly a criminal punishment. It is a preventative action, and perhaps one should make a moral reflection before accepting an ideology that naturally by simple moral deduction is compatible with atrocity.

                • JN

                  “I could write a book on my moral reasoning here.”

                  You just did. And it’s still bullshit.

                  Peaceful, law-abiding Muslims do not bear responsibility for 9/11 or any other terrorist acts. Period. Your ass-backwards reasoning is the same nonsense Harris and the vile hatemongers on the far right used to smear the people behind the “Mosque” at “Ground Zero.”

                  Spare me your self-righteous, bloviating textwalls about how “Islam is evil and promotes blah blah blah.” Yes, Islam has a great deal of vile content, as do all religions. You aren’t talking about Islam here, you’re talking about MUSLIMS.

                  You are suggesting that MUSLIMS be singled out and treated differently based on the actions of others – actions which the overwhelming majority of them, as polling here in the US makes clear, do NOT support.

                  Your rationale amounting to nothing more than a bunch of vague, and yes, transparently handwaving rhetoric about how their “ideology” promotes this or that, as though you were somehow qualified to assess that as it applies to average Muslims.

                  That means that you are a bigoted ignoramus, and that nobody here needs to take you seriously.

                  Got it?

                • brianmacker

                  No I don’t “Got it”. The mosque at ground zero was explicitly chosen to be in the debris field of the towers and by a guy who had a history of saying the innocent people killed deserved it. So fuck off you ignorant supporter of a terrorist apologist.

                  Muslims polled right after 911 were in the majority in favor of terrorism in many countries and in shockingly high numbers in others, average Palistinians over and over vote in terrorist political parties.
                  What the hell do you mean by “average”. You think it all averages out?

                  Here’s some info for ya:

                  “Recent (2009) Polls show a disparity of views regarding terrorism, with between 15% and 30% of respondents in most Muslim countries surveyed holding a positive view (see [6] for the complete results) on various related issues. An average of 30% of respondents in Indonesia, Egypt, Pakistan and Morocco held positive views of groups that launch attacks against Americans, while similar numbers held a negative view or a neutral view. With regards specifically to al-Qaeda, in Egypt, 21% of respondents supported their attacks on Americans, while 33% opposed attacks on Americans but supported al-Qaeda’s goals and 28% opposed both al-Qaeda’s attacks and goals; the remainder held no strong opinion. These numbers were 9%, 19%, and 22% respectively in Indonesia; 16%, 15%, and 22% in Pakistan; and 9%, 31%, and 26% in Morocco. With regards to feelings about the former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Muslims tended to show even stronger support. In Egypt, 44% held positive feelings, 25% held mixed feelings, and 17% held negative feelings. These numbers were 14%, 21%, and 26% respectively in Indonesia; 25%, 26%, and 15% for Pakistan; 27%, 26%, and 21% for Morocco; 56%, 22%, and 20% for the Palestinian Territories; 27%, 27%, and 20% for Jordan; 9%, 9%, and 68% for Turkey; and 4%, 6%, and 82% for Azerbaijan. Related to this trend is widespread denial of al-Qaeda’s role in such attacks as those of September 11 in the United States. Majorities in Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Turkey, and Jordan did not believe that al-Qaeda was behind the attacks, naming the United States government or Israel as more likely culprits.”

                  68% of Muslim Americans view terrorism unfavorably.

                  Looks like you are the ignorant one. Those are appalling numbers. They are in line with what the religion teaches. These are not Jains.

                • JN

                  “No I don’t “Got it”.

                  That’s because you’re a thick-headed, self-absorbed douche.

                  You keep trying to apply collective blame, and it isn’t working.

                  “The mosque at ground zero was explicitly chosen to be in the debris
                  field of the towers and by a guy who had a history of saying the
                  innocent people killed deserved it. ”

                  Debris field? What the fuck are you talking about? It was blocks away in a BURLINGTON COAT FACTORY. “Debris field” my ass.

                  As for your claim that Rauf said they deserved it, produce a CREDIBLE source to demonstrate this or shut the fuck up.

                  “So fuck off you ignorant supporter of a terrorist apologist.”

                  How about YOU fuck off back to FreeRepublic or whatever xenophobic website you spawned in, shitstain?

                  “Muslims polled right after 911 were in the majority in favor of
                  terrorism in many countries and in shockingly high numbers in others, ”

                  And here we go with the red herrings and goalpost shifting, the telltale sign of an anti-Muslim bigot.

                  Here are some numbers for YOU, fuckwad – numbers that relate to American Muslims and are therefore actually relevant.

                  You might want to pull your head out of your ass first so you can actually comprehend them:

                  http://www.gallup.com/poll/148763/muslim-americans-no-justification-violence.aspx

                  US Jews and Christians are twice as likely as US Muslims to find attacks on civilians acceptable.

                  So much for your nonsensical, handwaving generalization about the Islamic “ideology” and how it justifies viewing US Muslims as such a dire threat.

                  Now why don’t you stop spamming the comments section as though your fucking name needs to appear over every comment and take your fearmongering bullshit somewhere it actually belongs?

                • JN

                  Oh, and don’t think you’re impressing anyone by typing in 3-letter columns to get the last word, jackass.

                • brianmacker

                  The debris field comment was made by the asshole you support you ignorant jerk.   It doesn’t matter where it actually is.  It’s his quote.

                  “US Jews and Christians are twice as likely as US Muslims to find attacks on civilians acceptable.”

                  I knew you were a creepy scoundrel.    There is a big difference between explicitly targeting civilians for terror, and killing civilians accidentally while dealing with military targets.    There’s a difference between military action and terrorism. That question is biased because it makes no distinction, and it is perfectly moral to accidentally kill civilians when fighting a war.  And you think the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center is a credible source when all the other polls completely contradict this nonsense.   What’s disturbing are polls that discuss support for terrorism, not military action.   The 2007 pew poll put 13% of american Muslims supporting suicide bombing, and the same in the 2011.

                   US muslims aren’t the only ones flying on our airplanes.  Americans Muslims poll bad enough but  foreign Muslims poll worse.  Far worse.   Also young American muslims poll twice as bad as the older generation.  The whole point of the Abu Dhabi poll is to confuse that issue.   No, American’s do not support targeting civilians with suicide bombings on planes you moron.    This is got to be your most moronic angle yet.   There is no danger that US servicemen or the people who support them are going to be boarding planes with bombs strapped to themselves.

                  I’d do what I want.   As long as morons like you make these stupid claims, I point out exactly how they are wrong.

                  How many more inaccurate posts do you plan to make.  How many more times to you plan to put words into the mouths of others.   That’s how often I’ll respond to your baloney.

                     

                  .

                • http://user-illusion.myopenid.com/ user illusion

                  Macker is a lying piece of garbage and isn’t worth your time.

                • brianmacker

                  The ideology I am referring to is Islam. I guess you are just totally ignorant on the subject if you didn’t realize Islam is the ideology I was speaking of. The Qur’an is full of hatred, bigotry, and admonishments to fight, murder, and persecute non-Muslims.

                  Here’s one example of many: 9:29 “Fight those who believe not in God nor the Last Day nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God and his apostle nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth (even if they are) of the people of the Book, until they pay the Jizya [religious tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

                  This kind of command is what the terrorists quote, and is part of their “infallible” book.

                • JN

                   Still talking, dipshit?

                  I don’t need a list of cherry-picked verses from the Qur’an that you copied and pasted off of some anti-Muslim hate site.

                  The Bible is rife with violence, murder, and genocide. The text specifically and unequivocally states that homosexuals and non-believers should be killed (this is clearly echoed in the NT). This is inescapable for Jews, and the NT makes it clear that the OT is an integral part of the Christian faith.

                  Yet we don’t hear you and the rest of the fearmongering liars on the anti-Muslim fringe holding all Christians accountable when some gay rights activist in Africa gets killed by a Christian nutter, or when American evangelicals try to pass LAWS there that would make homosexuality punishable by death, even if they specifically cite scripture as their justification.

                  Do you know why?

                  Because you’re a bunch of fucking hypocrites.

                  You have a problem with Muslims, and the rest is the rationale you pull out of your ass to justify your hate.

                  Now fuck off back to FreeRepublic where you belong.

                • JN

                   Since you STILL don’t know when to shut up:

                  “The debris field comment was made by the asshole you support you ignorant jerk.”

                  Either produce the source to back up your claim, or shut your fucking mouth.

                  “There is a big difference between explicitly targeting civilians for
                  terror, and killing civilians accidentally while dealing with military
                  targets. ”

                  How about you go read the poll, dumbass?

                  It inquired about both military and non-military attacks on civilians.

                  Swing and a miss.

                  Oh, and yes, the Abu Dhabi Gallup center is absolutely a credible source of information. It’s one of many Gallup partner organizations. That you are such a racist fuck that you see the words “Abu Dhabi” and then wave it away just proves that you don’t deserve to be taken seriously.

                  US Muslims support violence against civilians far less than those of other faiths.

                  It doesn’t fucking matter if it’s flying planes into buildings or walking down the street shooting people; OVERALL support from the community is considerably less.

                  Thus, your hand-waving generalizations have no basis in evidence.

                  Try to obfuscate your way around it all you want, dumbass. It won’t work.

                  As for this:

                  “As long as morons like you make these stupid claims, I point out exactly how they are wrong.”

                  You’ve certainly tried, but so far, you haven’t even come close to succeeding.

                  So yeah, fuck off back to FreeRepublic.

                • brianmacker

                  Why yes I do hold wider Christian groups responsible to various degrees. So much for your nonsense.

                • JN

                   You are a lying piece of shit.

                  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2010/09/04/ground-zero-church/

                  “Plus McVeigh and the abortion bombers were lone nuts immediately condemned by Christians. Not like the 9/11 terrorists who have wide support throughout the Muslim world, polling quite favorably right after it happened. The number of terrorist organizations in the Islamic world is astounding and you’d be very hard pressed to name any in the Christian world, and if you did they would not be harking back to Christs teachings.”

                  You are running a blatant double standard and are now lying to cover it up.
                  American Muslims have consistently denounced terrorism and are less likely on average to support violence against civilians than members of other faiths.

                  Yet Christians get a pass, and they don’t. The reason being that you are a fucking bigoted hypocrite.
                  You are the worst kind of bigot: the type who masks his bigotry under the guise of rationality so that he might be taken seriously.

                  Fortunately, though, it doesn’t look like anyone here is buying it, regardless of how relentlessly you spam the comments section so that you can get the last word.

                  Keep digging that hole of yours, fuckstick.

                • JN

                  Guess what, brian? It gets even better – I found more!

                  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2011/11/29/a-response-to-im-a-christian-unless-youre-gay/

                  On the subject of how Christians view gays:

                  “Look up “love thine enemy” and “original sin”. According to xtians we are all sinners. You think they hate everyone including themselves? Xtianity has some a profoundly pacifist teachings”

                  “It was a more extreme example for which I could give real world examples of actual christians behaving as if the believed it. Like Amish forgiving a guy who just got done mass murdering their children.

                  There is “love thy neighbor” and “love the sinner but not the sin” also.”

                  “I already understand this perspective. Some Christians do hate gays for precisely the reasons you outline. To claim all Chirstians think this way is to over generalize.”

                  Yet you have NO problem overgeneralizing about how Muslims think, even when the statistical data punches your argument right in the balls.

                  As I said – you are running a blatant and transparent double standard in which Christians get a pass because they don’t act upon their beliefs (except when they actually do, as we see occurring in Africa on a regular basis), but Muslims don’t, even when polling shows that they’re less supportive of violence than Christians are.
                  Hear that sound, brian? It’s whatever credibility you and your posturing armchair expertise might have had left going down the drain.
                  Not only are you an anti-Muslim bigot, which is cause to simply ignore you, but you are also a hypocrite and a liar, which is even worse.

          • keddaw

             Or just kicked out the country…

            • brianmacker

              I’m not for kicking anyone out of the country.  I think however we do have the right to prevent certain types of religious activity that is criminal.   For instance defamation of non-believers.   Defamation is a crime (at least a civil one).  Unfortunately the Christians are the majority and they kinda like the fact they are allowed to do that so don’t expect any law that would allow a crackdown on such activity by Imams, because it might just apply to Christian preachers on their pulpits.

              So the defamation laws are written such that it’s only a crime if you do it against a specific individual.   If you defame an entire class of people that just dandy even though the victims are many fold and one would naturally expect greater harm.

            • brianmacker

              I’m not for kicking anyone out of the country.  I think however we do have the right to prevent certain types of religious activity that is criminal.   For instance defamation of non-believers.   Defamation is a crime (at least a civil one).  Unfortunately the Christians are the majority and they kinda like the fact they are allowed to do that so don’t expect any law that would allow a crackdown on such activity by Imams, because it might just apply to Christian preachers on their pulpits.

              So the defamation laws are written such that it’s only a crime if you do it against a specific individual.   If you defame an entire class of people that just dandy even though the victims are many fold and one would naturally expect greater harm.

              • brianmacker

                Oh, wait, I take that back.  I am for kicking illegal immigrants out.

      • brianmacker

        … but again.  You, Bruce Schnider, and the rest of you are math challenged.     Harris’s argument is “don’t expend so many resources body cavity searching crippled white jewish kids, and instead reassign resources more intelligently to those whose religion advocates murder by martyrdom”.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          You can disagree with the conclusions we draw from the numbers, e.g. “is it worth the cost” but these aren’t difficult calculations.  The MATH is correct.  We just draw different meanings from the relative numbers.

          You know, it does take a little bit of math knowledge to reach the final round of an NIST hashing algorithm competition http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NIST_hash_function_competition#Finalists  Or Block Cipher algorithm competition http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twofish

          I realize that has nothing to do with Schneier being right or wrong here, but it does give him some math cred.

          • brianmacker

            Yeah, I tested above the 99% in math too. So what. How about yo do the math instead of arguing from authority.

            • keddaw

              Assuming all terrorists are Muslims and we’ve some accurate way of telling them apart.

              Otherwise we’ve made it much more likely that a non-Muslim terrorist, or a non-Muslim-looking terrorist will succeed.

              And that’s irrelevant because the decrease in likelihood of catching someone from not profiling (in the given example) is so small that you’re more likely to die from choking on the airline’s food.

              • brianmacker

                I don’t know how many times I am going to have to repeat this. My analysis merely applies to the question of Islamic terrorism, and in particular suicide bombers. If you want to limit that avenue of attack you can increase your odds merely by profiling, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. No it is not going to stop letter bombs or your dog from peeing on your couch.

                The point is to show that it is NOT inherently racist rot profile (or inherently bigoted). If your only option were to search boarding individuals then profiling can be used to increase your odds. Nor does such profiling need to be the sole method being used.

                I have personally been against the mass screening from the beginning. However if you are going to do it you can save lots of resources by rebalancing the searching with some profiling. There are all sorts of valid arguments against particular schemes and also Farsi us ways to modify the algorithms to satisfy valid objections while still benefiting from the advantages of profiling.

                Jumping firefly to the conclusion that profiling is racist, bigoted, or immoral is insupportable and that is why no one is actually supporting such claims but merely asserting them.

                • keddaw

                   The point was that focussing on the Islamic problem of suicide bombing on airliners specifically, leaves us more open to other threats such as that bloke that flew his own plane into the Federal building – he could just as easily have gone commercial and timed his explosion to be over a federal building.
                  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/19/us/19crash.html

                  Then we have to work out who is Muslim.  If we have a particular stereotype in mind then the terrorists would seek to use people who didn’t meet that and we’d be less likely than at present to search them.

                  Then there is the problem that the increase in safety from profiling is so much smaller than your chance of dying on the taxi to the airport that it makes it completely pointless.

                  You have mentioned an 8-fold increase in safety, but if you give me the choice of A (1 in 80 million chance of dying) and B (1 in 10 million chance of dying) then I really don’t care which one I get.

                  We really have to get some perspective here.  The odds of being killed (on the ground or in the air) in a terrorist attack in the US was in the order of 1 in 100,000 in the year 9/11 happened.  That is a risk that has been reduced by a factor of more than 10 by adding secure locks onto cockpits.  Better intelligence also reduces the number of attempts and the success of those attempts, further reducing this figure.  The security theatre adds virtually nothing to that and
                  profiling enhances the security theatre rather than actual
                  safety.

                  If you can’t accept a 1 in a million risk in a year without shredding people’s rights then, my friend, you are attacking the wrong enemy: cars, fast food, the 2nd Amendment and even falling down should be your enemy.

                  If you want a view on the CBA of anti-terror measures:
                  http://reason.com/archives/2011/09/06/how-scared-of-terrorism-should
                  The highlight being “in the last 5 years you are four times more likely to have been struck by lightning than killed in a terrorist attack.”  And that’s including the majority of US deaths which actually happened in Iraq and Afghanistan!

                • brianmacker

                   Harris already covered the “using other methods also issue” in his original article.   He even wrote an article about how people go insane over issues like this with regards to his position on torture.  As in not bothering to read what he wrote and attributing lack of knowledge and positions to him that should not come up if they’d just read the original articles instead of the chinese whispers version.

                  I’m very well aware of the odds of being killed by a terrors, lightening, or rattlesnakes.    Smart people still don’t stand under trees in lightening storms, and guess what my grandfather was killed by a rattlesnake.

                  Also guess what, there were more deaths in the US army under Clinton than under Bush when people were bringing up the issue.     We could go into the issues surrounding millitary deaths but thats a red herring for this discussion, as is your entire discussion of shreding rights.

                  You don’t have a right to go on an airplane unsearched.   Sometimes we get silly libertarians who argue that there should be no stop signs, speed limits, or mandatory drivers insurance, based on the idea that the government does not have the right to impose such.   However, were the roads privately owned it is quite clear that the owner would have such rights, and likely would require such.   So libertarians shouldn’t be all too bothered jsut because the government is doing the same on public property.     Turns out the same notions work when it comes to airports, and airplanes.   If airlines had more legal responsibility for terrorist attacks (as they should) you can be sure they would be setting up searches.   The problem is the don’t own the public spaces called airports.

                  I’m not sure why you are writing all this stuff.  It’s not like I don’t read and these aren’t common arguments that blow around.    It’s not responsive to my comments so it is like you are writing it because you think I live in a cave.  It’s kinda insulting.

                  I suggest you actually go and read Harris.    Both on torture and on this issue.   You don’t have to agree with him but it would help prevent you from needlessly covering ground that has already been covered.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      The ethical/moral argument isn’t one we’re going to make any headway on.  The cost/benefit is one we can.  Sam is always going to feel it’s ok to offend X peaceful Muslims if you have any chance whatsoever of preventing a terrorist attack.

      If Bruce can convince Sam that profiling does not increase your chances of preventing a terrorist attack, or reduce your overall cost, or both, then the argument is won.

      It’s kind of a cost/benefit analysis, argue what you can win, ignore what you can’t.

      • http://user-illusion.myopenid.com/ user illusion

        Then we get to the question of WHY Sam is advocating an ineffective policy. Looking at everything else he says about Muslims and Islam, it is apparent.

      • brianmacker

        Where do people get the idea that people have a right not to be “offended”.     Try arguing that they have a right not to be searched, or some other reason because being offended is just too easy.   

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          ‘offended’ was probably a poor word choice.  I hope you’d agree there’s a difference between drawing pictures of ‘profits’ and making everyone of a particular religion wear a special symbol pinned to their outer garment at all time so we can identify them.

          • brianmacker

            I hope you realize there is a difference between me searching random strangers on the street or in their homes, and me searching them for illegal drugs before I let them in my car, on my plane, or in my building. For all the supposed respect this Bruce guy and all the people listening to him nobody actually follows his advice. Well, except for the part where he’s got everybody believing that seating should be indiscriminate lest we offend.

          • brianmacker

            I don’t recall the requring of people to wear a symbol, and if you recall the symbol was there specifically because there was a policy of rounding them up to exterminate them.   Hardly a polite implication about Harris or me.    Godwin for sure.   

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

           We actually DO have the right NOT to be searched. 4th Amendment, protects us from unreasonable search and seizure, and I’ve yet to see anything as unreasonable as TSA “searches”.

          • brianmacker

            Unreasonable search and seizure by the government. There is no reason why private business can’t do it. … And yes I am aware of the status of the TSA.

    • RobMcCune

      Harris’s argument for profiling is that its wrong to subject people who have nothing to do with terrorism to unnecessary searches, which profiling will reduce. Schneier points out that profiling will lead to unnecessary searches, only this time based on ethnicity.  Also it will lead terrorist to believe there is a vulnerability to exploit, and lead innocent muslims to feel they are being treated unfairly and thus less likely to cooperate with counter terrorism officials. So, Harris wants to fix a wrong by perpetrating another wrong in a counter productive way, which is exactly what his critics said.

      • brianmacker

        Yet there is no problem with treating innocent non-muslims unfairly.    If you are muslim you have decided to remain in a religion that advocates violence and martyrdom.   It is hardly “unfair” that you get extra scrutiny.  Poll after poll show that Muslims have a warped sense of fairness in the first place.   Not sure why we have any duty to cater to their sense of fairness.        

        • RobMcCune

          And how exactly would you know who is a muslim and who isn’t with any sort of certainty? Certain clothing might be a give away, but muslims also dress just like westerners, so that wouldn’t do any good, too specific. You could look for Harris’s introverted, sheepish Quaran smuggler, but thats obviously way too specific, far too many confident muslims with e-readers and ipads. Harris points out he should not be above suspicion, but then who is he suggesting we profile, non-seniors? Thats helpful, too generic to be useful. 

          Islam is a religion, no one “looks like a muslim”. What Harris implied in first piece is people who look middle eastern should get treated differently, whether he admits it or not. First it’s wrong to stereotype based on ethnicity (warped sense of fairness I know), secondly as Schneier points out muslims can be of any ethnicity, so arguing the utility of profiling is a moot point.

          Schneier considers the crap airport security pulls to be pointless security theater that no one should be subjected to, and supports getting rid of it. You and Harris see the same thing and think it should be inflicted on teh muslims they deserve it after all.

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            btw, Schneier is the person who coined the word ‘Security Theater’.

            • RobMcCune

              thanks, didn’t know that

          • brianmacker

            You don’t have to know with certainty, no more than you have to know with certainty that your car won’t break down to drive it around. To increase the probabilities does not require perfection. We’re not taking about executing them on the spot.

            • RobMcCune

              I never said it had to be perfect, only that Harris’s intent was to profile based on ethnicity, and his protests to contrary used stupid criteria. As for probability, the TSA is increasing its odds from incredibly small, to incredibly small. Arguing that it is a good way to catch a terrorist, is like arguing that playing the lottery when the jackpot is small is a good investment strategy, or that a 12C homeopathic remedy is better than an 200C dilution, more chance of molecules that way.

              The TSA cant keep known terrorists off planes, the underwear bomber was on the no fly list. Faisal Shahzad, who tried to blow up times square, was arrest on a plane, while he was wanted by the FBI. Personally I think that hole in security should be fixed rather than focusing harassment on a group of people based on the color of their skin, the shape of their nose, funny names, etc.

              • brianmacker

                I have a friend who’s position is that we should just take the terror hit with no response because they are like mosquito bites. That is, make zero efforts. He says between war expenditures,, homeland security waste, war deaths, TSA delays and waste, etc. We’ve inflicted more harm on ourselves than the terrorists. He’s been making it for years. It’s right depending on your assumptions. Unfortunately there no way to know what assumptions are correct.

          • brianmacker

            You don’t need certainty.   You only need probablity.     You need only cast your net wide enough.    Harris said “Muslim or looks like a Muslim”.    One could add or comes from a Islamic country (especially a terrorist supporting state).    Even if you cast your net so wide that it engulfed half the US population that would be a 50% savings, which is enormous.     Also, the examples he gave of searching and the text he wrote made it pretty clear that he was distinguishing different kinds of searches (random, baggage, underwear).  

            We already put foriegners on different lines at the airport when coming into the country, is that “racist” or “bigoted”.   

            I am not arguing for any particular mix of measures, and neither was Harris, but it is extremely stupid to have the kinds of searches being done in the videos he linked to. 

            “Schneier considers the crap airport security pulls to be pointless security theater that no one should be subjected to, and supports getting rid of it.” 

            If it is crap then we shouldn’t do it to anyone.  If it isn’t than it is quite clear that doing it selectively to Muslims makes sense, and that’s true even if you can’t 100% identify them because you don’t have to be perfect.     It’s doubtful anyone will sneak a bomb into your underwear.    

            Manufacturers do searches for defects, we search meat, etc. and we do so using profiling.   One doesn’t need perfection because one can use probablity to save on your efforts.

            If your net is wide enough to cover 95% of Muslms while excluding some large percentage of non-Muslims you get a savings while increasing your odds of catching them.

            If there are 80 Million muslims traveling out of 360 million people, and only you do 80 million searches then concentrating on the muslims makes sense even if you only manage to identify 70 million of the Muslims by passport religious identification, country of origin, appearance, dress, etc.    You can treat the 10 million non-muslims as part of your random searchs of non-Muslims you would be doing anyway.  

            The math is so simple here that it’s hard to fathom why there are so many who don’t get it.    I especially get angry when I do math, get the right answer, and then get accused of bigotry, or racism because of it.    I’m not changing my tune on the math because some people like to intimdate.   It is extremely impolite to assume basse motives on the part of others in a discussion when it is about differences of opinion on other things.

            “You and Harris see the same thing and think it should be inflicted on teh muslims they deserve it after all.”

            It’s not about “deserve”.   We aren’t doing it as a form of punishment.  If we were then we wouldn’t be doing it to our own people.    When someone says that you shouldn’t walk down a dark alley in a bad part of town that isn’t saying that you deserve to get mugged in a general sense.   No one deserves their stuff stolen.   It does mean that you are making yourself a logical target for the crime.    Muggers don’t steal becaue they are trying to met out punishment, nor do TSA agents search people for the same reason.    Muslims have placed themselves in a category of being more likely to be associate with terrorists by deciding to remain in the Islamic religion (which advocates terrorism).    Hell, the Palestinians voted in the majority for a terrorist organization (no two separate such organizations) to run their country.     So it isn’t like they don’t know what is going on here.    They can work on avoiding the alley. 

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    It’s incidents like this-
    http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-03-06/news/31129902_1_breast-milk-tsa-worker-tsa-officer
    - that make people think that maybe profiling would be better.

    • The Captain

      And it’s incidents like this that makes people think profiling is a bad idea.

      http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/08/travel/stuffed-animals-gun-parts/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

    • http://user-illusion.myopenid.com/ user illusion

      Suppose that TSA were shooting random passengers in the head. Would you argument that “profiling would be better”? Of course it would be, but  offering it as an argument FOR profiling is deeply, deeply irrational and intellectually dishonest.

  • newavocation

    Security theater absolutely! You really don’t have to think too hard to see ways to get around it.

  • brianmacker

    In his response Bruce Schneier screws up his math.

    One in 80 million is a whole lot better odds than on in 630 million.     You reduce the odds by doing more than just one search  (which is what your odds imply).   You only have to do 80 million to get the odds to certainty of searching the intended target.   No kidding most you select are innocent, and even more are innocent when you don’t profile.  You are not throwing them in jail.   You are scrutinizing them further.    Even if you only search sporadically, not searching everyone, you increase your odds by profiling.   It’s simple math, and NO the base rate fallacy does not apply in his argument because he didn’t use it properly.  

    If you are going to search (randomly or otherwise) it makes sense to profile.   You are much more likely to be successful asking a white person on the beach if he has sun block to share, than a black person in a cave.   That goes even if you have some particularly rare brand of hypoallergenic sun tan lotion you need.    Does it guarantee success?  No.  It just increases your odds of success.    He writes, “The right way to look at security is in terms of cost-benefit trade-offs. ” yet he can’t even do the math to figure out the costs.

    He links to articles that use Bayes theorem in completely different ways.   Some of which also make errors which one could also use erroneously to “prove” that we should never attempt to use any criteria to search for criminals.

    The rest of his argument is rendered null and void by the simple expedient of using
    other profiling methods also.

    He’s failed to argue properly against using profiling using probability.

    I don’t care about offending Muslims because their religion teaches that I deserve death and that offends me.   If they cared about not offending me then they’d abandon a religion that teaches such vile lessons about non-Muslims.  Yet, I feel NO compulsion not to help find murderers of Muslims.  

    On another note the entire religion is designed to take offense with non-Muslims over trivial things and they’ll just have to live with the fact their religion endangers non-Muslims and we have a right to defend ourselves even if it offends them.   He provided no evidence that selective profiling offends, or that such offense results in less cooperation.   He merely asserts it.     People who want to find offense will find reasons for being offended, like when we burned Qur’ans being used to pass messages between prisoners (when burning Qur’ans is a legitamate way to dispose of them according to respected Muslims).

    • Pseudonym

      One in 80 million is a whole lot better odds than on in 630 million.

      That is exactly the base rate fallacy. He didn’t work through this because the base rate fallacy is well-known among security professionals.

      Let’s throw out a few numbers to work this out. Suppose that there are 630 million passengers who travel by airplane. Suppose that 80 million of these are Muslim. Suppose that 21 of them are actually terrorists. Suppose, furthermore that your screening procedure is 99% accurate.

      Suppose you apply your screening procedure to everyone, and it signals positive. What is the probability that the person is a terrorist?

      The number of terrorists who would be signalled positive is 99% of 21, or 20.79 effective terrorists. The number of non-terrorists signalled positive is 1% of 630,000,000, or 6,300,000. So the probability that a person for whom the signal is positive is actually a terrorist is 20.79/6,300,000, or 0.00033%.

      Now let’s apply the system to just Muslims. A person is signalled positive. What is the probability that the person is a terrorist?

      Again, the number of terrorists who would be signalled positive is 20.79. The number of non-terrorists signalled positive is 1% of 80,000,000, or 800,000. So the probability that a Muslim for whom the signal is positive is actually a terrorist is 20.79/800,000, or 0.0026%.

      The base rate fallacy is that people think that you should get an 8-fold gain (630 million divided by 80 million) from only screening Muslims, but because the probability of someone being a terrorist is so incredibly low to begin with, it’s actually an increase of only 0.0023% (0.0026-0.00033).

      That’s the “benefit” side of the equation. Now consider the cost: you lose the goodwill of the Muslim community who are better placed than anyone else to spot people who are vulnerable to becoming terrorists. This is not made up by Schneier, by the way; there’s a huge pile of social science and public policy research into the role of goodwill in partnerships between law enforcement and communities where members are vulnerable to being drawn into a life of crime, and quite a bit of it is about terrorism specifically. This is an extremely well-trodden area.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

         Well-explained!

      • Pseudonym

         By the way, I just noticed a wording mistake.  0.00033% to 0.0026% is an 8-fold gain. I didn’t mean to imply that it isn’t. The point is that the base rate is so small that it’s an 8-fold increase from extremely negligible to very negligible.

        • brianmacker

          The base rate is for one TSA agent searching one passenger. What are the odds of that? It’s also a measure of first level assessment. SO what if it nets a large number of innocents as a first assessment. You then investigate further and release them when not found to be guilty. You don’t just line them up and shoot them. I’ve had the TSA ask me to open my bag after an X-ray for further investigation. Looked like a bomb or gun on first assessment. Bruce is misusing the math.

          • Pseudonym

            Ah, I think I see the problem. You appear to be confused as to what a “base rate” is.  Let me try to explain.

            “Base rate” is a term that statisticians use to talk about the probability of a member of the population without reference to featural evidence.

            Suppose that a homeopath tells you that 100 patients tried a homeopathic remedy and were cured of back pain.  Assuming that the experimental design was sound (which, of course, is not a given), there are several things you’d probably want to know to evaluate this statistic. For example, you’d want to know how many patients were treated who weren’t cured.  If it turns out to be 2000, the base rate of success is actually only 5%, which is far less impressive than 100.

            The base rate fallacy applies to airline security because raw numbers of terrorists mean nothing without knowing how common terrorists are. They are, in fact, vanishingly rare. So rare that even small costs can be quite large compared to the benefit of screening.

            Which brings us back to Schneier’s main point: You could spend 100% of GDP on airport security, and you still wouldn’t be 100% safe. All security is, therefore, a cost-benefit tradeoff. If you don’t understand that there are real costs to any security procedure, and know what they are, you cannot rationally evaluate the procedure.

            We’re not just talking about time and inconvenience. To see what I mean, consider the question as to whether or not backscatter x-rays are worth it.

            There’ s obviously the cost of the machines, training people on their use and so on. We’ll ignore the cost to democracy of the corruption involving Michael Chertoff. And we’ll ignore the inconvenience of a slower queue. Let’s just look at the health risks of x-ray machines, which are nonzero, and fairly well understood.

            So what’s the chance of, say, getting cancer from one of these machines? Oddly enough, it’s almost exactly the same as dying in a terrorist attack.

            Clearly, this means these machines are extremely safe, but that’s not the point. The probability of getting a serious disease from the machines is about the same as the probability of the risk that they’re trying to prevent. Do they, therefore, win the cost-benefit analysis?

            I honestly don’t know; I’m not a public policy expert. But it would seem to me that you’d at least have to take that into account.

            The costs of profiling Muslims specifically are less well-understood, obviously, but there is decades worth of research on the general area of specific communities where people are particularly vulnerable to becoming criminals, and how best to deal with that. We know that it is a far, far more effective use of resources to work with such communities to help people not enter a life of crime in the first place, than it is to treat the entire community as suspects by default.

            • JN

              Nail/head.

              Brian has the same problem as Harris: he is so self-absorbed that he thinks he is qualified to comment on complex matters that he has done no research into, and ends up making a fool of himself.

              Now watch him try to obfuscate and bluster his way around your point, just as Harris tries to do, without ever allowing the possibility that he may simply be wrong.

            • brianmacker

              Yeah, but I agreed with your entire comment (and knew it before you wrote it) except for your claim that I don’t know what a base rate is.    What in my comment leads you to believe that I don’t think it is extremely costly to search everyone.     You however forget that there is deterrence involved and that the number of attacks using the same methods would likely increase if we did nothing.   The same argument using odds could be used to argue against many preventive methods using cost.   Which is exactly why they had flimsy cockpit doors (that and the fact that airlines are held legally culpable for such negligence).   The argument was that it was too costly to do all the doors, when hijacking were so rare.

              • Pseudonym

                 You said, and I quote:

                The base rate is for one TSA agent searching one passenger.

                It’s possible that I misunderstood what you were trying to say, but it appears to be something connected with the probability of a TSA agent performing a search discovering a terrorist. Whichever way you cut it, this is not the base rate.

                The base rate is the number of terrorists as a proportion of the flying population. It deliberately does not take into account who is searching whom and who found what while looking. That’s because when westart talking about the proportion of finding things during searches, we need to start incorporating the error rates, both false positives and false negatives.

    • Pseudonym

      By the way, even if you think there’s no moral problem with offending Muslims, you can’t escape the practical problem that it’s counter-productive. That’s assuming, of course, that your goal is to minimise the number and severity of terrorist attacks.

      • brianmacker

        There are valid arguments against the practice. Calling people racists, or falsely claiming that profiling is not superior to wider searches are both non-starters.

  • http://user-illusion.myopenid.com/ user illusion

    I guess Harris is “otherwise rational” if you subtract out his irrationalities, which include just about anything about Muslims. He once wrote an L. A. Times editorial in which he berated liberals for thinking that anger among the populations of the middle East had ANYTHING to do with U.S. foreign policy. Even Harris is human, and has his blind spots.

  • spinkham

    Sam Harris thinks he’s going to teach *Bruce Schneier* something about security?

    Seriously?  Harris is getting way to big for his britches.

    (Dan Geer is one of the few people in the world who is qualified to go toe-to-toe with Schneier on such matters, and they very rarely disagree.)

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Right, then.

    Now, can we please find a REASONABLE screening method that doesn’t involve groping small children and little old ladies?

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Yes, but it means admiring to ourselves that we cannot prevent all acts of terrorism.  We can’t prevent car crashes either, but we don’t have an issue getting into a car every day.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        So it pretty much comes down to, “That makes sense, and we can’t do things that MAKE SENSE”?

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          I was implying that groping 2-year-olds doesn’t make sense.  Nor does groping anyone really, unless you have a better reason than “they look like they could conceivably be  Muslim”.  Like, you know, the xray showed something that looks like a bomb in their bra.

          But it means we have to get rid of the psychological blankie of seeing people getting groped, and feeling like the TSA must at least be preventing terrorists.  They probably are preventing terrorists, but not by randomly groping anyone, young Arab men or 2-year-old blonde blue-eyed Americans.

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

             Ah. K. So as long as we look like we’re doing something effective, and making people feel safer. It’s not really about security, then, is it? It’s all about making a show of “look, we haz security”?

            I’d rather have screening that is actually effective, and not just for show.

  • brianmacker

    Except he screwed up his math and then admitted it afterwards. It’s eight times more effective to screen only the Muslims and those who look like Muslims.

  • brianmacker

    I’d hardly call an eight fold increase negligible. If your profiling consists of looking for a bomb strapped to a chest that’s eight planes saved vs. one. Profiling is highly effective, and this is why even black taxi drivers do it. Given similar assumptions they make eight times the cash.

    The argument should not be that “profiling isn’t effective.” And it might be that “searching isn’t effective.” Good luck selling the idea that we shouldn’t search people for bombs, guns, and knives, boarding airplanes. The problem with that strategy is that all of the sudden it becomes way cheaper to down a plane and the rate of terrorist bombing goes up. The success of the 9/11 attack caused a worldwide spike in terrorist attacks. Just imagine if we made it so easy to down a plane.

    You know Since people can also be offended by having their luggage searched or being required to board the same flight as their luggage this wouldn’t even require the terrorists to be suicide bombers. Let’s do away with all searching since the vast majority of those searched are innocent and using Bayes theorem we can show that even if there is a 99.999% odds that a TSA gent can recognize a gun there is a vanishingly small chance we’ll ever actually catch someone with a gun, with this impossibly large level of TSA agents accusing people not carrying guns of having one.

    Sometime the failure in math does not reside in the formulas but in their application.

  • brianmacker

    They aren’t killing us because we are Americans. They are killing anyone anywhere that isn’t with the Islamic program. The Qur’an advocates the murder of infidel and “hypocrite” alike. Hypocrite referring to others who identify as Muslim but don’t fight for the Jihad. So the Islamists are terrorizing people of countries worldwide including other Muslims.

  • Nhills

    I feel like for all the arguing on this topic, no one on Harris’s side has actually addressed the arguments against them.


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