Protecting the Public

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," July 29, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

RICK LEVENTHAL, GUEST HOST: Since the London (search) attacks, cities in the U.S. have stepped up security with random searches of transit passengers. But will those random bag searches in the U.S. make Americans safer or should police focus on certain types of people?

A FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll shows almost half of those surveyed say they oppose racial profiling; 42 percent support it. But when it comes to protecting your safety or your civil liberties, 65 percent say safety comes first.

We're joined by Paul Sperry, author of "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington." He's also a media fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Thank you very much for joining us, Paul.

You wrote a very compelling op-ed in The New York Times Thursday. And if I could paraphrase, you basically suggested that random searches are stupid and profiling makes a lot of sense. Can you sum that up for us?

PAUL SPERRY, AUTHOR, "INFILTRATION": Well, we're committing politically correct suicide with these random searches. And they're not effective because the terrorists can easily slip through the one in 10 random searches if they can count to 10. And what law enforcement needs to do and what they want to do is zero in on the highest statistical threat. And that is from young Muslim men of South Asian and Arabic decent, and then combine the religious indicators, which are preying fervently, smelling like flower water.

LEVENTHAL: Explain that.


LEVENTHAL: Explain that.

SPERRY: Yes, why flower water? Well, that's because the suicide bombers, beforehand, they perfume themselves to prepare for their wedding in paradise with the virgins that they're rewarded.

LEVENTHAL: You have seen that statistic, nearly half of Americans don't support racial profiling. How do you convince Americans that it's necessary?

SPERRY: Well, I think people are worried about it being a case of a violation of civil rights. And, in fact, it's not, for the following three reasons.

One, the police profiling would be profiling a high-risk group, not a race. And that's something that insurance companies do every day. And no one is talking about profiling old Muslim women, elderly Muslim women.


LEVENTHAL: Explain the insurance company reference.

SPERRY: Well, insurance companies base your policy — you know, when you wrote a policy for, say, life insurance for another insurance policy, they base that, your premium, on the risk factors that you have or don't have. And that's just smart business.

And it's just smart law enforcement to profile based on the highest security risk. And that's just smart law enforcement.


LEVENTHAL: Well, a lot of law enforcement would agree with that, that they work on intuition. They follow their instincts.


LEVENTHAL: They look for indicators. And if you're telling them you can only check one out of five and you can't do checks based on what you think might be a suspicious person or a suspicious bag, you're handcuffing them, right?


SPERRY: Exactly. You're tying their hands and they're worried about that. You're giving the bad guys political cover to carry out their bombings. And it defies common sense.

But another reason it's not a violation of civil rights is that no one is forcing young Muslim men to be searched. You know, they can walk away from the train. And the third reason is, the government has a special need to protect the general public from terrorists, just like that protect the general public from drunk drivers. You know, they pull over suspected drunk drivers.

LEVENTHAL: Paul, isn't it also likely, though, that, if Al Qaeda (search) wanted to strike here again and if they knew there was profiling going on, that they would recruit people who don't fit the profile, who could slip past police who are checking only certain kinds of people?

SPERRY: Well, let's force them to do that.

You know, right now, we can get 99 percent of the terrorists right now with this. If they do that, then you can adjust the profile. But, right now, this is the profile. And you're exactly right, though, in terms of using more homegrown American, talking, and looking folks like right now, in the prison system, that's the top recruiting ground right now for Al Qaeda. They're primarily trying to recruit mostly black converts to lower their Arab profile and make it harder for law enforcement, security officials to target, trying to reduce and avoid their scrutiny, their security scrutiny.

LEVENTHAL: And, quickly, Paul, do you anticipate change on this issue?

SPERRY: Well, there's a lot more people talking, like we're talking about it right now.

I noticed a lot of folks, I mean, even The New York Times published this op-ed. There's a lot of discussion. A lot of folks from Israel are consulting with the government right now on this. It's been very effective over in Israel, the profiling, combining the physical characteristics indicators with the religious indicators. You can't marginalize the religious aspect to this threat.

LEVENTHAL: OK. Paul, thanks very much for joining us.

SPERRY: Thank you.

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