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America Needs Racial Profiling For Terrorists

With bigots harassing and violently attacking loyal Arab-Americans, it is a bit taboo in some circles to advocate racial or ethnic profiling of any kind, in any place, ever. “I’m against using race as a profiling component,” even in screening would-be airline passengers, Attorney General John Ashcroft declared in a television interview.

At the same time, the Bush Administration has rushed to adopt rules authorizing indefinite detention of legal immigrants, and is pressing Congress to pass immediately-with minimal scrutiny-far-reaching new powers that would (among other things) enable law enforcement officials, without presenting evidence, to lock up indefinitely foreigners suspected of terrorist links.

This, I respectfully submit, seems backwards. The new powers may be justified if they would, in fact, make us safer. But Congress should not simply assume as much without first hearing out critics who fear heavy costs to liberty with only illusory benefits to safety. The emergency measures adopted now could be with us for decades, because this emergency is not going away. So we’d better be careful. History is replete with hasty emergency legislation that we later came to regret-from the Alien and Sedition Acts to the detention camps for Japanese-Americans-and with abuses of the new powers years later by officials whose invocations of national security proved overblown or even fraudulent.

If the Administration says it needs new powers immediately, Congress should provide that they will lapse in 30 days unless reauthorized after due deliberation.

Racial profiling of people boarding airliners, on the other hand-done politely and respectfully-may be an essential component (at least for now) of the effort to ensure that we see no more mass-murdersuicide hijackings. If you doubt this, please try a thought experiment: A few weeks hence, or a year hence, you are about to board a cross-country flight. Glancing around the departure lounge, you notice lots of white men and women; some black men and women; four young, casually dressed Latino-looking men; and three young, well-dressed Arab-looking men.

Would your next thought be, “I sure do hope that the people who let me through security without patting me down didn’t violate Ashcroft’s policy by frisking any of those three guys”? Or more like, “I hope somebody gave those three a good frisking to make sure they didn’t have box cutters”? If the former, perhaps you care less than I do about staying alive.

U.S. Drug Policy Versus Drug Reality

If the United States is serious about winning the war on drugs, it will have to face some hard facts about the failure of its drug policy to date. Since Reagan introduced the war on drugs in the early 1980s, the focus of anti-drug legislation has been on incarceration and eradication, not on drug education and treatment. Drug use is viewed as a crimethe same way that burglary and murder are viewed as crimeswithout examining the social and economic causes behind drug use. This categorization of drug use as criminal misrepresents the nature of addiction. Drug addicts do not abuse drugs because they are deviant or even because they consciously desire to cause harm to themselves or to those around them, they abuse drugs because they are physically dependent on those substances for survival. The only effective way to break that cycle of dependency is through extensive detoxification and treatment programs. Not all advocates of reshaping Americas drug policy are in favor of legalization or complete decriminalizaton of drug use, though such steps are being increasingly entertained as a possible solution to Americas drug problem. On the contrary, a growing number of doctors and scientists are coming out in favor of a shift in Americas policies from hard-line law enforcement to rehabilitation and education-based deterrence.

The need for such a shift in policy becomes more apparent when one weighs the magnitude of government outlays on drug-related law enforcement against the ineffectiveness of the war on drugs to date. A few basic statistics on federal allocation of anti-drug funds and on federal prison records illustrate the extent to which American drug policy is focused on the blunt tool of punishment. In 1997, the federal budget f…

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… their ability to impair a persons judgment, etc. The government should realize that drug users are not criminals. They should establish more government treatment facilities in low income areas so that treatment would be an option available not only to wealthy actors and models but to the anonymous mass of low-income addicts. The free distribution of sterile needles is needed to combat the transmission of AIDSnot as a tacit advocacy of drug use. At an international meeting of the United Nations Drug Control Program in 1994, the United States refused to sign any statement mentioning the phrase harm reduction, as such a stance was seen as taking a soft-line on drugs. It is time for the United States government to wake up to the reality that the future of the War on Drugs lies with doctors, educators and sociologists and not with law enforcement agents and politicians.

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