Profiling Terrorists

racial profiling AP

This column was written by CBS News Early Show Co-Anchor Harry Smith.
The can of worms has finally been opened. In an Op Ed piece in the New York Times today and in several debates on radio and TV, the question of how to spot a terrorist, sometimes now includes the answer -- a young Muslim man.

Paul Sperry of the Hoover Institution argues in the paper today that after all it was young Muslim men who attacked the London subway and young Muslim men who flew planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. He even goes so far as to say they may smell like flower water because as suicide bombers they would be wanting to prepare for paradise.

Where does common sense start and when does it turn into racial profiling?

British cops now know, that because a guy looks a little like what they think they're looking for, and that he nervously or doesn't respond to clear commands in English, doesn't necessarily mean he's a terrorist. He's a dead Brazilian laborer in a coat too heavy for summer.

Tour bus workers freaked over the weekend in New York when a handful of tourists boarded their double-decker bus. The swat team was called in and lo and behold, they were Sikhs, not Muslims and their only crime was not looking like they were from Nebraska, whatever that means.

I spoke with security and terrorism expert John Rogers today and he was quick to say, "Hold on. Don't forget one of the London suspects was African and who's to say that an Anglo couldn't be recruited by a terrorist group."

Does the name John Walker Lyndh ring a bell?


Harry's daily commentary can be heard on manyCBS Radio News affiliates across the country.


By Harry Smith
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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