NewsHour: Racial Profiling – September 26, 2001

GWEN IFILL: So is this racial profiling or reasonable investigation?

We ask four people who specialize in civil rights, terrorism and the law. Juliette Kayyem is executive director of the Domestic Preparedness Session at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; Frank Wu is a professor at Howard University Law School, he is the author of Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White; Stuart Taylor is a columnist for the National Journal and Newsweek; and Gail Heriot is a law professor at the University of California at San Diego.

GWEN IFILL: Juliet Kayyem, you’re an Arab-American woman. Do you believe at any time that racial profiling can be acceptable?

JULIETTE KAYYEM: The easy answer to your question is no. It can’t be. And it’s not simply for the legal issues that will probably get into or the ethical issues. As a person in the terrorism business, I think it’s completely ineffective.

It’s ineffective with the specific problem we’re dealing with here. We have the Al-Qaeda group, we know they’re in 40 countries, from Malaysia to the Philippines to Latin America, so Arab looking people won’t satisfy, if you look for Arabs you’re not going to satisfy it.

But secondly I think it’s ineffective because we have a huge problem in law enforcement and intelligence right now, and that is simply we have no one to translate any of the information that we have. We have, we’re starting to hear hints that we knew something was going on at least a few weeks before this, and we’re still trying to translate some of that information.

If we continue to sort of intimidate and interrogate an entire community, and I should point out that most Arab Americans are Christians, not Muslims in America, we will not get the kind of cooperation we need.

GWEN IFILL: Stuart Taylor, when can racial profiling ever be acceptable?