Doug Bedell — August 29, 2008, 9:24 am

No Typecasting Terrorists

Stereotypes can be as much of a problem in security as other fields, perhaps moreso. If planning is done, and attentiveness paid, on the presumption of a given category of suspect, security officers can be in for rude surprises. Experienced security officers likely recognize this danger.

Here, as an example from Bruce Schneier, is what stereotyping vs. reality looks like in Great Britain:

M15, Britain’s intelligence agency, has concluded that

• The majority of those who become involved in terrorism are British nationals, and most of the remainder are in the country legally.
• Most don’t practice their religion, if they have any.
• Terrorists are no more pathological than the general population.
• Assumptions can’t be made on the basis of skin color, ethnic heritage or nationality.
• While most UK terrorists are male, women also play important roles.
• Most terrorists are young, but others are over 30.
• Instead of being loners, terrorists over 30 typically have steady relationships and most have children.
• British terrorists are from all educational levels, but almost all are employed in low-grade jobs.

In short, it’s not easy to identify who may be a potential terrorist. Vigilance is all.

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