Without even informing us whatever the so called national security really means, in the last few months, Chris has informed us that Somalis are a threat to the Kenyan national security. Thus, while evoking such an ambiguous term, he has now implored us on the wisdom of “supporting” Saitoti in his crack down on Somalis in Eastleigh in Nairobi.
Anyway, the main issue here is not how to define the meaning of so called national security, but to show that, this kind of profiling we have adopted in the name of “fighting” terrorism, and which Chris is cheering in the name of fighting terrorism can only make us less safe.
Now, there are two kinds of profiling. We can use behavioural profiling which is based on how someone acts. The other profiling is automatic profiling which is based on names, nationality; the way one may the way a person buys a plane ticket etc. As an example of automatic profiling, in December, 2009, the USA government designated 14 nations whose nationalities must be subjected to more screening. The meaning is that people from these 14 countries are more likely to be terrorists than all other nations.
The behavioural profiling can be the most effective way of profiling. However, it is extremely hard to get it right. Consequently, national security people and media people, retort to automatic profiling as we see now in Kenya against Somalis. The question is, does this kind of profiling really work?
As a matter of evidence and reasoning, automatic profiling does not work. It does not work because the so called terrorists do not come in a neat profile that computers can pick. For instance, Timothy McVeigh was a white male American. The recent “terrorist,” by the name Mutallab, was a Nigerian. The shoe bomber, a Mr Richard Reid was a British with a Jamaican father. Germanaine Lindsay one of the alleged 7/7 bombers was an African from the Caribbean. Jose Padilla was an Hispanic American. The terrorist who blew the Russian planes in 2004 was a Chechen female. From this list, it is rather obvious that, terrorists do not come in one brand.
More so, this kind of profiling creates two paths through security system. In one path, there is less scrutiny and the other one there is more scrutiny. Once you have this two path security system, you invite the terrorist/criminals to use the path with less security. These criminals no doubt have the capability of analysing a profiling system and then adapt accordingly.
For instance, since Uganda is not among the 14 nations designated by the USA administration, what would stop a criminally minded person to relocate to Uganda for some time and then start his journey from Kampala to the USA?
From what we have said above, it seems more reasonable to have a system where we can randomly select people to be screened. For instance, if it is at the airport, why not have an idea whereby, every 20th passenger, unless is a toddler, will be subjected to a more through screening? With such a system, anyone could be subjected to security checks at any time.
The beauty of such an approach is that it does not anger the ethnic groups that we may need on our side if we are to be secure against criminals. Otherwise, with automatic profiling, you alienate the same people you want to cooperate.