Utilitarianism and Deontology

Barry Friedman details the ethical dilemmas that are an inherent part of racial profiling -- specifically in regards to terrorists at airports -- and the protection of this country's citizenry (Freidman, 2004). The basic ethical question is whether or not it is acceptable to abridge or infringe upon the rights of an individual in order to save multiple lives. On the one hand, the United States government is required, both legally and morally, to treat everyone equally, regardless of race, ethnicity, skin color, religion, gender, and many other factors that may be used in profiling terrorists. There is also a history of racism and racial profiling in this country that has had a significantly detrimental effect on the morale of minorities and trust in the government (Freidman, 2004). This explains why many "fear the damage that profiling may do to the values of American society;" racial morale issues are quite likely to be exacerbated by increased profiling, even though the target of the profiling will switch from being predominantly geared towards African-Americans to singling out Arab suspects (Freidman, 2004).

On the other hand, the main duty of any government is to protect its citizens. If a government cannot protect life, then there is no way -- or need -- for that government to protect any of the other rights of its citizens. In addition, effectively searching for elements of terrorism at an airport is time consuming, and given the Arabic and Islamic identity of the current breed of terrorist, many consider it a waste of time to conduct random searches without profiling; the system can be made much more efficient -- and therefore cost effective -- with the use f profiling, and it may actually increase the chances that a potential terrorist will be caught and stopped, as there will be fewer suspects for security officials to detain. Ironically, profiling will actually limit the government's intrusion into most people's civil rights. The other problem with this, other than the issue f civil rights, is that profiling might cause terrorists who don't fit the profile to be overlooked.

2) a. In her article arguing for the use of racial profiling in airports in order to combat terrorism, Sharon R. Reddick cites the ineffectiveness of airport security in allowing the terrorist attacks of September 11th to go forward. She argues that "profiling, based on both the behavior and appearance of airline passengers, provides a vital tool that effectively and efficiently increases airport security" (Reddick, 2004). To back up her claim, Reddick notes the "fact" (which must be regarded as suspect given that her source is the National Review Online, the website of a highly conservative and controversial magazine) that sixty percent of Americans believe that some sort of profiling is necessary for national security, as opposed to the eighty percent who were totally opposed to racial profiling before September 11th (Reddick, 2004). In addition, Reddick reminds her readers that similar issues have come up before during this nation's history, and that national security has consistently been placed before civil rights both ethically and legally (Reddick, 2004).

Reddick also stresses behavioral profiling, which would enable law enforcement and airport security to cast a much broader net. She also deems as inappropriate any profiling "which relies solely on race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin" (Reddick, 2004). Her argument seems to unravel itself, then, if this belief is truly held. Behavioral profiling being so much more effective, and racial profiling on its own being deemed inappropriate, one must question the validity of profiling that is based n race, religion, or ethnicity at all. Profiling simply based on behavior, Reddick claims, has always proven more effective in narrowing and identifying a pool of suspects (Reddick, 2004). In addition, her historical points of evidence such as the Alien and Sedition acts have been largely condemned by modern scholars as racist and unconstitutional laws; these same laws that made racial profiling an entirely legal endeavor also made certain speech against the government illegal. It is difficult to abridge civil rights only by degrees; often, things get out of hand quickly.

b. In direct contrast and opposition to Reddick's article and her conclusions, Christina Fauchon's piece deplores "racial profiling in any environment, including airports" as "an unproductive and immoral policy to ensure safety" (Fauchon, 2004). Her first piece of evidence that such a policy is immoral and illegal comes from a shameful modern chapter in our history. Decades after the internment of thousands of Japanese-American families during World War II, Congress finally determined that an apology and $20,000 was due to the victims of this wrongful imprisonment (Fauchon, 2004). Fauchon believes that this is evidence which indicates that "racial groups are often separated and mistreated out of fear, and that those who have mistreated them live to regret a hasty decision" (Fauchon, 2004). Fauchon goes on to note the use of profiling in the war on drugs, and its ineffectiveness there (Fauchon, 2004).

This argument is difficult to apply to the terrorist situation and profiling at airports to prevent more mass deaths, however. Though Fauchon points out that several modern terrorists have not been Arbaic or even Muslim, the numbers overwhelmingly suggest that most terrorists who are and have been successfully targeting the Western world are affiliated with these groups either by ethnicity or religion -- and often both. The argument that profiling is ineffective in combating terrorism seems hasty and naive, then. Though it is correct in suggesting that the view of law enforcement and airport security officials should consider suspects that do not match the profile, it is incorrect to associate terrorism with drug use in this country.

Fauchon's major argument, however, is not concerned with the protection of current lives, but rather with the ongoing protection of the enduring rights and freedoms which this country specifically and the Western world as a whole have come to stand for.

Along with these freedoms has come a stigma -- well earned throughout history -- of racism and ill-treatment of minorities (Fauchon, 2004). Racial profiling, Facuhon claims -- and with good reason -- will only exacerbate this stigma, increasing anti-Western and anti-American sentiments, which might actually increase the dangers of terrorism (Fauchon, 2004). While life is important, there are certain rights that have always been considered important enough to die for, and Fauchon believes -- like many of this country's patriots -- that equality is one of them (Fauchon, 2004).

3) I am far more in agreement with Fauchon's point-of-view, including the reasons she lists for it. From purely pragmatic reasons, I believe that behavioral profiling is far more effective and efficient in identifying and neutralizing terrorist threats. Despite the statistically high probability that the next terrorist threat will be Arabic or at least Islamic, there is absolutely no guarantee that this will be the case. The safety of the citizens of the United States of America requires an equal and careful consideration of all suspects. As it would impossible, both financially and practically, to search every single person who travels by plane in to, out of, and around this country, limiting the range of suspects is necessary. However limiting that range based simply on ethnicity and/or religion would allow for a multitude of suspects to get through. Even investigative techniques that do not exclude other suspects but still create an ethnic/religious focus will necessarily miss other terrorism suspects. Behavioral profiling -- which is really just the use of common investigative sense, coupled with a knowledge of tell-tale criminal signs -- is far more likely to catch all terrorism suspects.

Even more important, however, are the protection of the rights of everyone in this country. Again, there are the practical concerns of improving the United State's image and moral standing in the world; our treatment of minorities at home and abroad has not been marked with an eye towards the equality of minorities or indigenous peoples, and racial profiling will increase the racist image many people hold of the United States and its citizens. This would have many detrimental effects, not the least of which is an increased attitude of hatred that has been the hallmark of terrorist action against the United States, and an increase in incidents of terrorism.

There are also the moral and philosophical concerns inherent to racial profiling, which are arguably of greater importance than the immediate practical concerns. There is little point to a government that purports to ensure freedom and equality if it is not willing to risk anything protect these qualities. Likewise, any population that considers itself fair, equal, and free, yet is not willing to put their own safety at risk to remain so, is not really fair, equal, or free at all. Principles by their most basic definition must be upheld even when it is disadvantageous to do so. If they are only adhered to when it is convenient and advantageous, then they are not really principles at all but merely pragmatic and selfish measures. If this nation…