Monday, January 4, 2010

Ret. USAF General Thomas McInerney Proposes Strip-Searching Young Muslim Men At U.S. Airports, But Whole-Body Scanners Are A Valid Substitute

In the wake of the partially-unsuccessful bombing of a Delta airliner in Detroit on Christmas Day by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian who allegedly received al-Qaeda training in Yemen, retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney has proposed strip-searching Muslim men from 18-28 years of age at American airports. Original story from Fox News; also picked up by Iran's PressTV, by Raw Story, by Digital Journal, and by Newsnet14.

General McInerney, who is also identified as a member of the Iran Policy Committee, put forth the proposal during an appearance on Fox News on January 2nd, 2010. “If you are an 18 to 28-year-old Muslim man then you should be strip searched. And if we don’t do that there’s a very high probability we’re going to lose an airline,” he said. The retired general went on to say that US officials should profile all Muslims. “We have to use profiling. And I mean be very serious and harsh about the profiling.” McInerney believes one of these men will succeed in blowing up an airplane in the coming days, and thinks there is a “danger of high probability” of a terrorist attack within the next 30 to 120 days.

The video clip is embedded below:

The general's remarks come just before the Transportation Security Administration announced new, enhanced screening tactics at U.S. airports, with a renewed focus on foreign travelers. All passengers flying into the United States from abroad will be subject to random screening or so-called "threat-based" screens.

General McInerney failed to mention how he proposed to distinguish Muslims from other travelers. Would we require all travelers inbound to the United States to identify their religious preference in advance? And not all Muslims dress in Arabic-style robes. Furthermore, it can be sometimes difficult to distinguish between Arabic faces, Sephardic Jewish faces, and Hispanic faces. Any terrorist organization could attempt to defeat this profiling by instructing its operatives to dress like CEOs or hippies. It creates more questions than answers.

A less intrusive way to accomplish this goal is through the increased deployment of whole-body scanners. Suspects could be re-directed to walk through a scanner, and then strip-searched only if the scanner revealed an anomaly. The problem is that there is some high-profile opposition to the use of these scanners, most notably from Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz. In a CNN Commentary on December 31st, Chaffetz reiterated his opposition to whole-body scanners, and continues to promote legislation banning their use.

But strip-searching someone will be perceived as a degrading process, no matter how professional the screeners act. Thus it would be in the public interest to minimize the need to perform strip-searching of passengers. Whole-body scanners offer sufficient protection in most cases. It's time Congressman Chaffetz re-think his position against whole-body scanners.

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