McInnis pleaded for ‘threat profiling’ in the days after 9/11

In the wake of news Wednesday that GOP gubernatorial frontrunner Scott McInnis would seek to enact Arizona-style racial profiling laws in Colorado, media outlets are combing through his record in Congress on the matter. McInnis, a former policeman, has been a strong proponent of what he calls “threat profiling” for years. In a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives only weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, McInnis made an impassioned case for eschewing “political correctness” and accepting that racial or ethnic characteristics were essential to consider as part of overall safety or law enforcement measures. “This is not a game. The nice guy finishes last here. In this kind of matter, the nice guy finishes last,” he said.

The McInnis remarks have one kind of cast in light of immediate-post-9/11 anxieties over security. Looking at this approach to state governance and how it is playing out in Arizona, where the matter is not officially terrorism but immigration status, Latinos pulled over for traffic stops, driving into interstate weigh stations or merely walking in their neighborhoods will be subject to suspicion and to arrest and incarceration based on the mere fact that they are Latino or even simply not white.

Rep McInnis 7 November 2001:

I have seen, and I have been very disappointed and discouraged recently, about some people playing what I would call the race card against profiling. We have to talk in a very serious tone and with thoughts of the consequences of doing things and not doing things, about tools of enforcement that we can utilize within the borders of our country and outside the borders of our country and for the people that want to cross the borders of our country and for the people that want to leave the borders of our country, tools that we can use to help secure the national security. One of those tools is profiling.

Now, let me distinguish at the very beginning the difference between what I describe and what I define as racial profiling, which most people in this country, including myself, are justified in opposing, and utilizing race as one of the components of a threat profile. … Racial profiling is where that is the only determinant factor that one utilizes in one’s profile construction. Now, obviously, if race is one’s only determinant factor, the only factor considered, it raises a balloon for a very legitimate argument that one is creating or causing discrimination.

But let us not confuse who are the victims here. Who are the victims in this situation? Think about September 11. We have to quit being politically correct. What has happened is we have moved from being constitutionally correct to politically correct. I am telling my colleagues, there are law enforcement personnel, there are airport security personnel who are afraid to question certain individuals because they are afraid those particular individuals will complain that they are being discriminated against.

That seems the easiest get-out-of-jail-free card one could use. If they are detaining a person in the airport and one has any kind of ethnic leverage, they could just complain they are being discriminated against: Why are you searching me? You are discriminating against me.

I actually have some constituents out there, Mr. Speaker, that think profiling, period, regardless of how we construct the profile, is not legitimate. I find that pretty interesting, because think about it, think about this: we find profiling in every avenue of our life. Think about it.

Our schools, for example, our schools profile. Our schools profile which students are getting poor scores. Our schools profile neighborhoods: gosh, people from this side of the city are getting poorer scores than people from this side of the city. They profile by race; they profile by, okay, the white students in this age bracket at this grade are at this reading level, the black students are at this reading level, the Hispanic students are at this reading level, the Vietnamese are at this reading level.

The colleges do it; they profile their top engineering students. We use it in education every day. We use it in marketing. We use it to assess risks. That is another area, in insurance and in marketing. The media, take a look at any newspaper or any television station that criticizes through editorials, or any radio station, and take a look at what they do. They profile every day of the week. They profile who their listeners are, who their viewers are, who is most likely to buy the products that they are trying to sell over their medium of communication. Of course they profile.

Hospitals profile. Traffic is profiled. In fact, I challenge my colleagues to name one aspect, one aspect of our life that is not profiling. We profile. Our political parties profile. Frankly, the political parties also profile based solely on race, in some cases, based solely on ethnic background.

For example, they might say, hey, this is a black district. Let us go in, because the blacks tend to vote Democrat, so let us not profile anything other than how many blacks in there are registered. They profile strictly on one factor, and the Republicans do the same thing with contingencies of, let us say in a particular community it may be
that the Irish in that community support the Republicans in bloc form. They go and they profile, too.

What I am saying here is, for God’s sakes, if we allow profiling for marketing purposes, if we allow profiling out there in our schools, if we allow profiling in every step of our lives, why do we not or why are we resistant at all to profiling to protect the national security of the United States of America? This is not a game. The nice guy finishes last here. In this kind of matter, the nice guy finishes last.

So I am not a proponent of, nor are my colleagues proponents of, what I would call that type of racial profiling, where the only factor we have, looking to the left to my poster, the only factor that we have to consider is race or ethnic background.

But I am strongly advocating that we continue to encourage, in fact that we mandate, until we come up with a better alternative, that we mandate threat profiling. It is common sense. It is not rocket science; it is common sense.

The bottom line is simple. The bottom line is that I agree that ethnic background, and in fact, I advocate that ethnic background alone should not be used as the sole component of a profile. At that point, I think it is fair for us to call it racial profiling.

But once we begin to use ethnic profiling as a component, one of several components to build a profile, I think it is very legitimate. I think it is smart. Obviously, it is constitutionally protected. It may not be politically correct, with a small number of people. It may be abused by a small number of law enforcement personnel.

But overall, if it just saves one terrorist attack, and it will save a lot of terrorist attacks, we have proven evidence of that and we know it does, so if it can just assist our Nation and the citizens that we have a responsibility to protect in this Nation by giving them some assurance of protection and actual protection, then we ought to be using it.

Read the entire speech here.

Hat tip to David Sirota, who will be discussing the story on his 760 AM radio show Thursday morning.

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