Profile terrorists, not grandmas

Thursday’s foiled terrorist plot to smuggle liquid-based bombs on board nearly a dozen transoceanic commercial airliners flying to and from the U.S. and Britain caused near-panic and gridlock in airport terminals in both nations. Government and airline officials scrambled to stop passengers from boarding with mundane items such as toothpaste, suntan lotion and sodas.

The disruption, frustration, delays and inconvenience will continue for an unknown period because airports lack technology to sniff out the separate ingredients that, when combined, create a lethal bomb. The arrests made thus far by British authorities may not have captured all the plotters, so there is still reason to fear some will succeed in exploding an airliner packed with hundreds of innocents.

Much more may be said of these matters, but for now we offer two observations: First, thanks and praise for the British investigators who, with help from U.S. officials, spied out the plot and then carried off a well-coordinated series of arrests. A key to their ability to crack the conspiracy was the ability to sneak and peek — that is, to enter suspected plotters’ homes covertly to gather information. U.S. law enforcement officials are not permitted to carry out such operations, except as provided under Section 213 of the Patriot Act. The ACLU is doing everything in its power to hamper or otherwise force repeal of part or all of that law.

Second, scan the many news photos of the long lines of frustrated travelers yesterday. It’s impossible to miss how few match the typical terrorist profile: natives of or descended from families that came from or still live in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt or another Middle Eastern, Asian or African nation with a Muslim majority or significant Muslim minority.

We recognize the vast majority of Muslims do not share the jihadist obsession with killing Americans, Brits and other Westerners. But there’s one undeniable fact about the 1993 World Trade Center bombers, the Sept. 11 murderers, the Madrid bombers, the London subway bombers and the present liquid bomb plotters: All clearly are identifiable as being of Muslim background. We’ve yet to see bombers who look even remotely like a gray-haired governess from Southampton, a harried middle-aged U.S. sales executive from Los Angeles or a haggard dad and mom with kids in tow returning home to Atlanta.

There is no room left for the blind, politically correct transportation security procedures that ignore this reality. Our enemy nearly always is a young or middle-aged man from a Muslim nation or culture. If preventing another Sept. 11 means delaying all travelers from such nations, well, then so be it. Maybe the resulting inconvenience and discomfort will help induce officials back home to get serious about helping the U.S. and Britain stop terrorists from succeeding in their deadly aims.

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