No, we don't. What a crock! Former New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir made this unsubstantiated assertion to TV personality Chris Matthews while defending the NYPD's effort to "randomly search" subway users.
Since the London subway bombing, there has been a lot of this fear-mongering:
The Assemblyman plans to introduce legislation to repeal state anti-racial profiling laws so that police can stop people they think are terrorists.
Naturally, there are objections:
Most of what US authorities are doing about "security" is bullshit. In its more benign form, it is simply something baffled governments do to convince frightened citizens that they are doing something. I put stationing National Guard troops with telescopic equipment below the Golden Gate Bridge in that category: slightly foolish, expensive, but harmless. (When the same Guardsmen were patrolling San Francisco Airport after 9/11 it wasn't quite so harmless; one of them shoot himself in the butt.) But when government incites more fear of terrorism than is warranted and turns to rounding up (in Safir's words) "the enemy" who is not "us," then security theater does far more harm than good.
- it gives frustrated police departments license to "round up the usual suspects," without any showing of wrongdoing;
- it leads to culturally ignorant guesses about people's ethnic and religious affiliations and imputes guilt simply by association with stigmatized groups;
- it alientates members of suspected communities who might have some actually useful tips for law enforcement;
- and it undermines the very best instincts of people who, left to their own devices, are usually quite imaginative and resourceful in a crisis.
Baruch Fischhoff is a professor of social and decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon University and president of the Society for Risk Analysis; he has described how we actually react in a emergency:
There really are a few, somewhat organized, somewhat funded, nutcases out there who believe they have a right to terrorize the people of the US and other countries. But the answer to terror is not more fear, more racial profiling, and diminished civil liberties. The answer to terror is courage, understanding as much as we can about causes, intelligent law enforcement, and cleaving to our own best ideals including equality of all persons and the rule of law.