monetary values to the hassles and delays experienced by those law-abiding people who are improperly singled out for scrutiny, it would be very difficult to weigh stigmatization and such larger societal values as the possible serious erosion of civil liberties over the long term.
Ultimately, assessment of the possible use of ethnic profiling in fighting terrorism should involve careful, sober, deliberate consideration by policy makers and the public of three main factors: the desire to protect against the likelihood, albeit very small, of catastrophic terrorist events; the reality that racial (or ethnic or national origin) profiling is likely to be only marginally effective in detecting terrorists in airports and similar venues and, at the same time, will subject many innocent people to harassment and stigmatization; and the importance our society places on protecting core societal values of equal protection and liberties for all.
Over time our society has progressed, through civil war, constitutional amendments, legislation, and court cases, to a conclusion that race-based discrimination in such domains as job markets, housing, and voting is unacceptable and should not be allowed, despite arguments that might be offered to the contrary (e.g., allegations that the presence of disadvantaged racial groups lowers property values). We have reached that conclusion not only for overt race-based discrimination but also for discrimination against racial minorities that results from the use of ostensibly neutral procedures lacking a clear justification. One might argue that similar conclusions extend to discrimination based on ethnicity. Whether our society should maintain that posture in fighting international terrorism is a matter the public might wish to debate. What we have endeavored to do in this brief review is to identify the difficult issues involved, not only in developing profiles but also in assessing their costs and benefits when such vitally important and almost impossible-to-quantify dimensions as public security and core principles of liberty and equality are at stake.