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Terrorism and Profiling

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A key problem for counterterrorism is how large numbers of individuals can be screened most efficiently to discover terrorists. This question arises at security checkpoints of all kinds, from roadblocks to airline security counters. Some argue that certain categories of individuals, for instance, young Muslim men in the airline context, should be screened more heavily than others. Others deride this as racial profiling, and argue that any such scheme would be easily evaded. I examine a model of searching for terrorists among a population divided into categories that vary in their potential reliability or ease of recruitment as agents of terrorist attacks. The equilibria in the model feature profiling, in that different categories are searched with different intensities. Practical difficulties in implementing a rational profiling scheme are discussed.

Keywords: airport security; check points; game theory; profiling; screening

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Publication date: July 1, 2011


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