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Two Words: Why TSA Security Doesn’t Focus on “Profiling”

March 12, 2010 | Posted in: DOT,News,Security,Travel Safety

security profiling jihad jane

I know that the Transportation Security Administration – especially the TSA’s blog – gets plenty of comments from people who are outraged that airport security doesn’t do more “profiling”. Here is one of those comments:

“The reason why the blue-eyed great-grandmother from Minneapolis is given a hard time while four young Middle-Eastern men sail through, is not because of her knitting needles (“She might knift an Afghan!” *rimshot*). It’s because the government is terrified of ‘racial profiling’.”comment left on TSA Blog, 5-2-09

So what are the two words referred to in the title of this post? Jihad Jane.

As numerous news organizations pointed out this week, the woman who allegedly called herself “Jihad Jane” – and who is due in federal court next week to be arraigned on terrorism-related charges – is a middle-aged, blue-eyed blond from the suburbs.

10 Responses to “Two Words: Why TSA Security Doesn’t Focus on “Profiling””

  1. John says:

    It would be nice if it were true, but the truth is that “it’s because the government is terrified of ‘racial [ethnic and religious] profiling.’” This reason dwarfs all others into obscurity. If you don’t believe that, then talk candidly to a TSA attorney.

  2. Rick Seaney says:


    For more on the TSA’s thoughts on this matter, please see: http://www.tsa.gov/blog/2009/05/what-does-terrorist-look-like_01.html


  3. Pat Ahlstrom says:

    the govt isn’t terrified of profiling. It just doesn’t work. The people who blew up the two loaded jets out of Moscow in 2003 were middle aged widows, not young middle eastern males; the only airplane ever bombed out of the sky over the U.S was out of Denver in the mid 50′s when the bomb was carrierd on board by a middle aged white woman who didn’t know she was carrying a bomb packed in her suitcase by her murderous son. Organized criminals including smugglers often will recruit those the police are not looking for. The fact is no one knows what the next would be bomber looks like and if we think we do, know and only screen same he/she will look different.

  4. Rick Seaney says:


    Thank you for the fascinating history lesson.


  5. Susanna says:

    Ah! I always wondered why ‘I’ was so called “profiled”, searched at nearly each Airport I was departing when I traveled to the USA.

    Hmmm 5′, tiny blond, 50′s Australian. Some people who were watching shook their heads and made comment to the effect “why her?” while I was picked out of a line waiting to board then to be searched.

    Actually it never bothered me, it was kind of amusing. I am glad they do search random people as I would rather be safe, while traveling, than be sorry.

    Thanks for your great website and information you provide, I check it out often and follow you on Twitter.

  6. Rick Seaney says:


    I liked how you said your experience was “kind of amusing” – a sense of humor, and some patience are essential when traveling these days.


  7. Daniel Avrin says:

    While our current threat seems to be primarily Islamic fundamentalists, much of the terrorist threat in the 1970s was from groups such as the Red Brigades (Italian, Socialist), the Beider-Meinhoff gang (German), the PLO (Palestinian but mostly secular) and the Red Army Faction (Japanese). Profiling one group leaves a gaping hole in security: anyone who does NOT fit the profile goes unchecked. So the female Tamil Tiger (Sri Lanka) with the bomb-filled fake pregnancy belly gets through. The Chechen woman with vengeance on her mind gets on an airplane. The anti-government former American soldier (Timothy McVeigh) blows up a building. Jihad Jane is just the latest reason we must ensure security for all and not rely on profiling. My .02 cents.

  8. Rick Seaney says:


    Thanks for an important history lesson from the not-so-distant past.

    And thanks for writing.

  9. Stuart says:

    Profiling, as done by Israel, forms a basis for a total system that works. That system also includes questioning of traveler as their luggage is searched. The total system works. Look at past history in the US. Some idiot tries a shoe bomb and now all US travelers take their shoes off, but in travel in many countries, including the UK who has strict security, shoes do not have to be removed. Now we have the idiot that plants explosive in his underwear. Will we have to remove our underwear next? Some explosives were found in a liquid container, now we have little quart bags with small items to be separately screened (I’m not sure what they can see in a scanner) creating more inconveniences, especially when traveling for an extended period, jackets have to be removed so they can be scanned (I assume for explosives), etc. When and where will it end? Creativity will continue to find alternative ways to get explosives through, since explosive can be made in very small sizes, or so I have read.

  10. Allison says:

    Shh! Stuart, don’t give them any ideas…

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