Man Without Qualities

Thursday, May 30, 2002

Racial Profiling of Arab Americans and September 11

The Man Without Qualities generally thinks OpinionJournal's Best of the Web gets most things pretty close to right. But with respect to Best of the Web's recent take on KausFiles' comments, which links to earlier comments by Tom Bray, I think Best of the Web misses a beat.

Specifically, KausFiles correctly observes that the Bushies should argue that "Dukakis-like civil-libertarian concern with the privacy rights of non-citizens produced a statute [FISA} with what now seems an excessively high standard of 'probable cause' the FBI had to meet before it could obtain the Moussaoui search warrant."

But Best of the Web says:

"One problem with this: As our Tom Bray noted way back in October 2000, candidate Bush himself denounced 'profiling' of Arabs in an apparent play for the Arab-American vote in Michigan (a state Al Gore carried anyway)."

But Mr. Bray's article does NOT say that President Bush objected to "profiling" Arabs. The Bray article says Mr. Bush was concerned with the treatment of Arab-Americans. [For one thing, only Arab-Americans vote - according to Mr. Bray, "assiduously".] For example, Mr. Bray's column says that Mr. Bush said: "Arab-Americans are profiled in what's called secret evidence. People are stopped, and we got to do something about that. My friend, Sen. Spence Abraham, is pushing a law to make sure that . . . Arab-Americans are treated with real respect."

Mr. Kaus' comments are directed at searches of people who are not United States citizens - such as all of the September 11 hijackers. I do not read Mr. Kaus as suggesting that the civil rights of Arab-Americans are any less important than the civil rights of other Americans. The crisis America is facing today comes from foreign terrorists - not from Arab-Americans.

Mr. Bush correctly argued that Arab-Americans are as entitled to protection from racial profiling as African-Americans and all Americans are. That position does not impede the Bushies' ability or obligation to point out the long-term demolition effort perpetrated by liberal Democrats on the American intelligence agencies.

The only reference to Arabs in Mr. Bray's column pertains to Al Gore, not George Bush: "Though officials deny that passengers are profiled according to ethnic group, it's widely believed the criteria used in the screening system [considered by Mr. Gore's task force] have the effect of singling out Arabs and Arab-Americans."

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