There’s a difference between mass profiling of a community, which is unconstitutional and counterproductive, and looking for potential terrorists who fit a profile.
Recent cases have raised alarm about whether we’re doing enough of the latter.
Known terrorists and suspects — including ISIS and Al Qaeda’s top recruiting targets, Muslims who were born in the United States or grew up here — have left a common trail of bread crumbs that must be weighed in their entirety in considering whether someone warrants further scrutiny as a threat.
The first surprising thing studying this trail tells us: Devotion to Islam alone is not a predictor. The ex-wife of Paris suicide bomber Ibrahim Abdeslam remembers him as a chain-smoking pothead who skipped the mosque.
Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was by the accounts of those who knew him not religious — drinking booze, doing drugs, eating pork. He reportedly started going to mosque just a few months before his Nice, France, attack.
In fact, a noticeable change in religious patterns is often cited as preceding the lone jihadist’s decision to attack. Folks in the neighborhood noticed the devoutness spike in New York and New Jersey bombing suspect Ahmad Rahami after he started making trips to Afghanistan.
Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev started screaming at fellow Muslims who cooked up Thanksgiving turkey.