That Broad Strata/Profile Thing

In the comments to this post about the supposed broad strata of the Canadian terror cell that was busted, commenter Bithead has been asking for data where the profile doesn’t work. What profile, Male of Middle Eastern descent pretty much sums it up.

Well here we go.

First up is the Belgian woman (white, European, and female–stating the obvious here for those who need it) who blew herself up in a suicide attack on American troops in Iraq.

MIREILLE, who was born in Belgium to a white, middle-class Christian family, blew herself to pieces last month in a suicide attack against American troops near Baghdad.

In one of the most extraordinary tales of Islamic radicalisation, she is thought to be the first white Western woman to carry out a suicide bombing.

Belgian investigators, who arrested 14 people associated with her, are keeping the 38-year-old woman’s true identity secret, but details have started to emerge. She was from the southern Belgian town of Charleroi, married to a Moroccan and converted to an extreme form of Islam.

Then there is Jemaah Islamiyah.

Authorities in the region have arrested more than 200 members of the group for allegedly planning an October 12, 2002, bombing that killed 202 people at a Bali nightclub. Three of the four main suspects behind the bombing have been sentenced to death in Indonesia. JI is also suspected in the August 5, 2003, car bombing of the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta that killed twelve, and the September 9, 2004, attack, which apparently targeted the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. Before the Bali bombing, Indonesian authorities had not aggressively investigated the group, though Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines had cracked down on it. After the Bali attack, the United States—which suspects the group of having ties to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network—designated Jemaah Islamiyah a foreign terrorist organization.

Fro those who need a lesson in geography Indonesia is not in the Middle East. Hence the attackers are, shockingly, not Middle Eastern. Hence, it doesn’t fit the profile. And there is more from this Southeast Asian (i.e. not the Middle East) terrorist group,

State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said in January 2003 that “information indicates that Hambali was involved in a 1995 plot to bomb eleven U.S. commercial airliners in Asia and directed the late-2001 foiled plot to attack U.S. and Western interests in Singapore,” referring to Jemaah Islamiyah’s plans to attack the U.S., British, and Israeli embassies in December 2001. In the most recent Bali attacks, two Americans were reportedly wounded.

There is evidence linking Jemaah Islamiyah to Al Qeada, although that evidence is not ironclad.

Then there are the Chechens. Also, not Middle Eastern.

In recent months, radical Islamist Chechen leaders such as Shamil Basayev, along with Osama bin Laden, have been “clear” about wanting to “set Russia on fire,” says Michael Radu, a terrorism expert at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. “This is not an Al Qaeda operation: These are autonomous groups,” he says. “It’s not like bin Laden wrote the checks. But they are synchronized ideologically and strategically.”

And there are more links to the Chechens and Al Qaeda.

  1. The late Chechen warlord Khattab, a Jordanian-born fighter who was killed in Chechnya in April 2002, and Osama bin Laden. Khattab apparently first met bin Laden while both men were fighting the 1979-89 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The U.S. ambassador to Russia, Alexander Vershbow, said shortly after September 11, “We have long recognized that Osama bin Laden and other international networks have been fueling the flames in Chechnya, including the involvement of foreign commanders like Khattab.”
  2. Individuals connected to the September 11 attacks and Chechnya. A Moroccan man charged with abetting the hijackers told a German court in October 2002 that the plot’s ringleader, Muhammad Atta, initially planned to join the fight in Chechnya.
  3. Zacarias Moussaoui, whom U.S. authorities have charged with being the “20th hijacker” in the September 11 attacks, was reported by the Wall Street Journal to be formerly “a recruiter foral-Qaeda-backed rebels in Chechnya.”
  4. Chechen militants reportedly fought alongside al-Qaeda and Taliban forces against the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance in late 2001. TheTaliban regime in Afghanistan was one of the only governments to recognize Chechen independence.

Then there was this article from U.S.A Today,

WASHINGTON — Al-Qaeda allies are believed to be scouting U.S. targets, and the terror organization is using non-Arab recruits to avoid detection, U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials say.

And the Jawa Report links to an article that seems to have moved about how terrorists are looking to recruit “White Muslims”.

Terrorists have been working to recruit non-Arab sympathizers — so-called “white Muslims” with Western features who theoretically could more easily blend into European cities and execute attacks — according to classified intelligence documents obtained by The Associated Press.

A 252-page confidential report jointly compiled by Croatian and U.S. intelligence on potentially dangerous Islamic groups in Bosnia suggests the recruitment drive may have begun as long as four years ago, when Arab militants ran up against tough post-9/11 security obstacles.

And there is this article on the use of women as suicide bombers in Iraq. In case some readers are unaware of this, women are not men. Shocking I know.

And I haven’t gone looking for any information on people sharing Michelle Malkin’s ethnicity the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). There is some evidence connecting the ASG to Al Qaeda. And one more geography lesson: The Philippine Islands are not in the Middle East.

The point is that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that fixating on the Middle Eastern male in terms of security measures is foolhardy. As commenter John Burgess noted, it is begging to be killed. This is why we need random searches and why Grandma from Cheboygan may find herself being searched. Random searches are not vulnerable to the Carnival Booth strategy.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, National Security, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Steve, it seems to me that somewhere between “fixating on the Middle Eastern male” and infiltrating Hadassah meetings there’s a prudent middle ground. And that there’s more than a single profile doesn’t render the denial of the obvious any less surreal. Of course, not all Muslims are terrorists. But, sadly, all these terrorists are Muslims.

    Like it or not the 17 men and teens arrested in Canada fit pretty well into the “Middle Eastern male” profile. And without doubt there’s more to this story than we know right now. Dan Darling pointed out rather sensibly yesterday that political animosity alone doesn’t create terrorists by spontaneous generation. When the connections and interconnections are followed there will be more than a bunch of Canadian Muslim men and an Internet chat room.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Further, the “broad strata” bit is a case of bending over backwards so far the spine cracks. Muslims constitute 1.9% of the Canadian population. Characterizing a group of Muslim men and teens who are first or second generation Canadians as “a broad stratum” is a wee bit of a stretch. If you pull names from the Toronto phone book at random, I don’t believe this is the sample you’ll get.

  3. Wickedpinto says:

    Strata definition I got from Dictionary.com

    “A level of society composed of people with similar social, cultural, or economic status. ”

    The use of the word “or” says that each status stands alone. If there is one thing that they all have in common, then they are a member of a single strata, not a broad strata. The Idea that there are small markers within a strata that might make certain locations of that layer slightly different does not change the fact that the argument in the comments that you are marking are leaving out one thing that makes that “broad strata” very narrow in definition.

    Islam.

    Islam is the primary source of terrorism, there is an occasional rogue lunatic who acts virtually alone or in a small group, but the institutionalized terror exists exclusively within islam.

  4. RJN says:

    Steve: Are you saying that we should put the United States on lockdown? This is all so bogus.

  5. floyd says:

    “women are not men”….what, not even in america, steve??!!

  6. Steve Verdon says:

    Dave,

    Sure a mixed strategy of using profiles and random searches might be best provided that both are done correctly–i.e. profiling doesn’t result in a reduction in random searches. Profiling is vulnerable and can be circumvented, but still might be a reasonable first line of defense.

    Like it or not the 17 men and teens arrested in Canada fit pretty well into the �Middle Eastern male� profile.

    Sure, I’m not saying the profile isn’t useless, but when one gets blown up by a woman because he was watching the men and not the woman, that person is a fool.

    Further, the �broad strata� bit is a case of bending over backwards so far the spine cracks. Muslims constitute 1.9% of the Canadian population. Characterizing a group of Muslim men and teens who are first or second generation Canadians as �a broad stratum� is a wee bit of a stretch. If you pull names from the Toronto phone book at random, I don�t believe this is the sample you�ll get.

    Again, it depends on what one means exactly by broad strata doesn’t it. Is it economics, is it locality, is it something else? As I noted in my first posting a random sample of men could turn up a group with some similarities. Heck, I bet a random sample of U.S. citizens would have a good shot at turning up only white males.

    Further, if the idea is that these are disaffected young Muslim males, then the term broad strata might actually be intended to debunk this. That they come from well-to-do families for the most part and range from older teens to as old as 43.

    Steve: Are you saying that we should put the United States on lockdown? This is all so bogus.

    No RJN, if anything that would be Malkin’s postion, recall that she is the one that advocates internment, not me.

  7. Wickedpinto says:

    Again, it depends on what one means exactly by broad strata doesnâ??t it.

    If you want to engage in semantic discussion about the phrase “broad strata” heres a start. Strata is born, in current terms, from the geological definition of the fine lines of geological change.

    Sociologicaly, Strata is a narrow definition of society, a “profile”, how about that? of individuals within a society, kinda like tribalism, but lets stick with the geological metaphor.

    All geological strata experience broad, and narrow points in measurement. For instance, the ash layers of the last yellowstone eruption are more thick the closer you get to yellowstone. But that isn’t what is meant by this article, which shows how little this writer knows about words.

    Sociologicaly, a “broad strata” is NOT a broad strata, it is actualy an “broad level of interconnection” or a “large degree of diversity” which is NOT what a “broad strata” actually means. What the article actually defines is NOT a “broad strata” but rather a “broad collection of particulates within a very narrow strata.”

    I know that might sound silly, especially since I’m perfectly willing to say I’m a highschool . . . .well, dropout, but I was actually an expelled student from highschool.

    Heres how it works. Most strata (layers) contain arabs, chechins, east asians, northern africans, radicalized western blacks and western rights, but only ONE Layer/strata defines these terrorists.

    This is a COMMON! COMMON! COMMON comparisson, and you guys are smart, so you should see this, and THIS is why normal people have a problem with “intellectuals” :

    All ants are insects,
    Not all insencts are ants.

    In this case:
    All the terrorist members of the plot were muslims, followers of Islam and their Mohammed prophet fraud.

    Not all followers of islam are terrorists.

    See?

    There is ONE layer, and while their might be particulates of value, like chechens, and arabs, and east asians and such, they all belong to islam.

    That is a “broad strata” that can be followed to a very narrow definition.

    I hate when social politics co-opt scientific terms, as though that gives them value.

  8. Steve Verdon says:

    Wickedpinto,

    If your point is that you want to reduce this to one variable, then fine, you win. I don’t think that is all that helpful, so you’ll forgive me if I go on ignoring you.

  9. Steve Verdon says:

    �women are not men��.what, not even in america, steve??!!

    Personally, I see this as a feature, not a bug.

  10. Wickedpinto says:

    Well, the point is that the PURPOSE of the disagreement about the reportage of the Canadian incident, is that it ignores that one FACT, not variable.

    It’s a FACT that they were all muslim/followers of islam. That’s a fact, not a variable, that’s actually, and axiomatic inclusion of the formula you are creating.

    If you are discussing what makes islam so vicious, that’s different, however, the criticism of the reportage is about the FACT, that they reporters are ignoring the FACT that they were all members of islam.

    That’s why I will repeat it.

  11. LJD says:

    Profiling goes beyond “that guy is brown”.

    Obviously a muslim person (male or female, white or brown)from indonesia or the middle east, will raise flags that a grannie from the midwest would not.

    Let Al Qaeda send white terrorists. They will get caught because our security personnel are not that stupid.

    What is stupid is making a PC equal opportunity BS issue out of our national defense.

  12. db says:

    The only thing dumber than focusing on middle eastern men, is obsessing over statistical outliers. Sure, profiling young muslim men won’t be 100% inclusive, but profiles never are. Just because a handful of women and recent converts reduces the correlation from 100% to 99%, the numbers are hardly significant. Certainly not enough to invalidate the utility of the profile.

    Profiles work, no matter how loud someone screams racism. What strikes me as odd, is that the very people who tout that “crime is caused by poverty” are often the same people who denounce “terrorists are created from islam”. Even though the correlation for the latter is much stronger.

  13. Steve Verdon says:

    Wickedpinto,

    I disagree that that fact was ignored. As I noted in my first post, the article noted that the men all wanted Korans, wore the “traditional Muslim beard”, etc. The names and ages were aslo published. So idea that this was ignored is simply not supported by the facts.

    Thatâ??s why I will repeat it.

    Be my guest, I will just ignore it.

    Profiling goes beyond â??that guy is brownâ??.

    Obviously a muslim person (male or female, white or brown)from indonesia or the middle east, will raise flags that a grannie from the midwest would not.

    So basically you are saying, “terrorists should try to recruit white people from the Midwest.” This notion of not looking in all directions (random searches) means that eventually the terrorists will find a way around the profile, then that is when the next attack will occur.

    Further, are we to assume from your comment that basically, the only people who shouldn’t be screened/searched are little old ladies from the Midwest?

    Let Al Qaeda send white terrorists. They will get caught because our security personnel are not that stupid.

    The American troops in Iraq didn’t stop the Belgian woman. And no, I’m not saying our troops are stupid. What I am saying is that terrorist wont have to rely on stupid security personnel when we have a stupid security policy.

    DB,

    We are in the world of statistical outliers. Terrorists by their very nature are statistical outliers. We don’t have enough data to do things like really good profiling that learns as we go. That is how profiling e-mail works. You have lots of ham and spam, hence you can have a reliable algorithm that detects what catagory an individual e-mail falls into. Not so with terrorists. Too few terrorists.

    Sure, profiling young muslim men wonâ??t be 100% inclusive, but profiles never are.

    And this is my point. Since it isn’t 100% inclusive and since terrorists aren’t stupid they can implement strategies to try and learn the profile so they can circumvent it. Random searches are not vulnerable in this sense. Hence a mixed strategy of profiling and random searches might be the most efficacious approach.

    Profiles work, no matter how loud someone screams racism.

    You do realize that this is a non-sequitur, right? I don’t think I’ve used the word racism in my posts or comments. I don’t have a problem with profiling due to racism, but because it is a faulty mechanism in that it can be circumvented.

    What strikes me as odd, is that the very people who tout that â??crime is caused by povertyâ?? are often the same people who denounce â??terrorists are created from islamâ??.

    While simple answers are both elegant and somewhat comforting that is rarely the case. I don’t think it is just Islam, but also the tribal aspects of many sects of Islam. Many of the influential people in Islam use Islam to justify their tribal customs.

    Even though the correlation for the latter is much stronger.

    As somebody who appears to have more than a passing familiarity with statistics there is an old and very good response to this: correlation is not causation. For example, sunspots were correlated with the business cycle. Care to explain the causal mechanism? Inflation and employment were highly correlated…until that correlation fell apart. Care to explain that one?