In 1994 I received a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Israel and Egypt. As I arrived at passport control at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, I was whisked away to a small room where I was questioned extensively about my reasons for coming into the country.
I was allowed to enter after someone from Israel's Fulbright office vouched that I was indeed a vetted Fulbright Scholar. The representative later explained that I fit the profile of Irish women (blond hair, blue eyes, maiden name Riley) who were suspected of smuggling explosives to their Palestinian boyfriends. At the time, horrible bus bombings were common throughout the country.
Weeks later, as I was leaving to fly to Cairo, security personnel walked past dozens of people ahead of me in the airline queue and motioned for me to follow them. My luggage was thoroughly searched and I was asked questions about my whereabouts on certain days, etc. As I was departing for an Arab country, I once again fit a profile that concerned the Israelis.
To this day, El Al Airlines is considered the safest airline in the world. Why? Because they have developed profiles to aid in accurately identifying security risks.
Many Americans are outraged that we would consider profiling someone by assessing their security risk to our nation. Is it really that outrageous to assess their likelihood of carrying a bomb onto a plane or buying a weapon for nefarious purposes?
We can use prior experience and psychological and behavioral criteria to better identify those who want to harm us. Security procedures in place at El Al speak to that.
Is it not common sense to better assess threat risks against Americans who simply want to go to a club, fly to visit family, or get up and go to school?