A "Typical" Terrorist

A simply horrible lead sentence in a Manila Times story:

If you see a man aged 17 to 35, wearing a ball cap, carrying a backpack, clutching a cellular phone and acting uneasily, chances are he is a terrorist.

Let’s see: Approximately 4.5 million people use the New York City subway every day. Assume that the above profile fits 1% of them. Does that mean that there are 25,000 terrorists riding the New York City subways every single day? Seems unlikely.

The rest of the article gets better, but still….

At least that is how the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) has “profiled” a terrorist.

Sr. Supt. Felipe Rojas Jr., chief of the NCRPO Regional Intelligence and Investigation Division (RIID), said Friday that his group came up with the profile based on the descriptions of witnesses in previous bombings.

Rojas said the US Federal Bureau of Investigation has a similar terrorist profile.

But a source in the intelligence community derided the profile, calling it stereotyped and inaccurate.

The police profile does not apply to the female bombers who the military said were being trained for suicide missions in Metro Manila.

Posted on October 20, 2005 at 11:47 AM32 Comments


Pat Cahalan October 20, 2005 12:33 PM

I hope I never get in an argument with my wife over the cell phone.

Or get any bad news, for that matter.

havvok October 20, 2005 12:37 PM

discards ballcap, backback, and cellphone

Now, if I get a starbucks coffee, a blackberry, and wear a suit no-one will suspect me!

This is just another example of why the term “intelligence community” is a bit of a misnomer.

jammit October 20, 2005 12:42 PM

“If you see a man aged 17 to 35…”. I’m 37 and look 18. Where does that put me? How about this idea for profiling: “If it’s breathing, shoot it”. It’s the freakin’ Red Scare(tm) all over again. How can you call it profiling when /anybody/ fits the description? That’s not profiling, that’s shotgunning. You’ll hit something eventually.

Aaron October 20, 2005 12:58 PM

Hmm according to this apparently a good quarter of the population of any college campus needs to be arrested… I’m wearing a ball cap was carrying a backpack and using a cell phone.

Later all, I’m off to go turn myself in! Now I know what I was doing all those nights when I thought I was asleep.

Carlos Gomez October 20, 2005 1:10 PM

I was at the maternity ward recently and observed that those who were there to give birth were women in their twenties and thirties. Based on this information, I’ve concluded that if I see a woman on the street between 20 and 40 years of age, chances are she is pregnant.

Rafael Hashimoto October 20, 2005 1:55 PM

This is the same kind of stupid measure that lead the British police to shoot and kill the innocent Jean Charles at London.

Roy Owens October 20, 2005 2:08 PM

@Mike Sherwood

The Onion is much better written. And funnier. And better edited. And better informed.

Juan October 20, 2005 2:35 PM

Really stupid. I wonder why they call it intelligence information. That’s why here in Manila we are actually terrified of the police and the military.

Shura October 20, 2005 3:13 PM

Hmm. I fit three out of those five signs, easily…

Good to know I’m 60% terrorist; without the Manila Times, I never would’ve realised. 🙂

Jilara October 20, 2005 3:44 PM

And if someone fitting that profile is also walking on a bike path, it sounds like it could be justification to shoot to kill…

Jilara October 20, 2005 4:16 PM

BTW, has anyone else noticed the sidebars on the article, with “FBI is Hiring” and “Increase your salary with a career in anti-terrorism,” and “Study Intelligence Online”? Certainly sounds like a growth industry. Of course, it would be nice if they actually hired people who had a clue, but that’s not a requirement of the positions.

Davi Ottenheimer October 20, 2005 7:48 PM

Oh, I couldn’t help but notice this turn of phrase:

“came up with the profile based on the descriptions of witnesses in previous bombings”

So the profile actually describes the witnesses or the terrorists or both? Seems like a fairly critical grammatical mistake. Either they meant “descriptions by witnesses”, or everyone was actually dressed the same…

Mike October 21, 2005 12:30 AM

The Philippine president is being pressured to resign for election fraud.

She’s spreading paranoia, hoping to declare martial law.

Dimitris Andrakakis October 21, 2005 2:41 AM

his group came up with the profile based on the descriptions
of witnesses in previous bombings.

Pathetic, responsive reaction. All the real terrorists have to do in dress in suits and carry suitcases.

What are these guys thinking ?

dan October 21, 2005 3:22 AM

erm do you not think that the journalist is just out for sensationalism and are twisting the words of the police?

Mike October 21, 2005 10:59 AM

“erm do you not think that the journalist is just out for sensationalism and are twisting the words of the police?”

Because journalists would never do that!

I think that they probably realise there is no set profile, but if things like this are said in public, would it not make people more vigilant in general? Would it also not help justify stopping and searching a wider group of people?

If I was in their jobs I think it would be a decent enough trade off by making some people more vigilant and possibly, just possibly increasing the chances of catching someone in the future before they blow themselves up against annoying a few lefties.

I love how some people here assume that they are alone have the intellectual capacity to dismiss the entire intelligence community as stupid.

piglet October 21, 2005 11:59 AM

Look on the bright side: this is another good argument against cell phones (and against baseball caps, of course!). I am ready to believe that anybody who uses a cell phone is a potential terrorist, or worse.

bugloaf October 21, 2005 12:00 PM

What’s horrible about the first line? The next line makes it clear the author is being ironic.

Eric K. October 21, 2005 12:22 PM

Most of these profiles are used by the logic-deficient to impose bizarre restrictions on normal people.

Imaginary (for now) quote using the same logic:

“One hundred percent of terrorism cases studies involved terrorists who wore clothing including shirts, pants, and even shoes while committing their dastardly deeds. Therefore, if you see a person wearing a shirt, chances are he’s a terrorist. If he’s wearing pants and shoes too, oh no, shoot to kill!”

“The Transportation Security Administration has announced today that, beginning November 1st, airline passengers will no longer be permitted to board aircraft if found to have clothing on their persons. A spokesperson for the TSA was quoted as saying ‘We believe that these measures are critical for the safety of the American public and will make us all safer by drastically reducing or eliminating the number of terrorists allowed to board aircraft.'”

gilbert October 21, 2005 8:55 PM

17 to 35 with backpack. Amazing how that fits the type of persons who go to protest rallies here in Manila. Now you only have to make them uneasy. Presto, you have a terrorist.

DigiLife October 24, 2005 1:01 AM

if everyone ran around naked noone would fit the terrorist profile and searches would certainly be easier. would only have to worry about rapists then. opps wait, i forgot. the terrorists would just run around naked too. it’s not like they would want to stand out in a crowd or anything……..

profile of a terrorist == any human

good excuse for chaos and getting your way with anyone, just become a government official (police, fbi, cia, nsa, etc.) and use the anti-terror laws! want an Audi? steal the keys becase they use switchblade action and could be a terrorist weapon. want real porn? strip search someone you are attracted to for fitting a terrorist profile. i’m getting sick of reading all these accounts but i won’t turn a blind eye to what’s happening. we have seriously got to draw a line when it comes to terrorism. draw it between what will help stop them and what will only achieve their goals for them. we need to start fighting for our rights.

Benard December 1, 2006 10:45 AM

in 1972,11 Iraeli athletes were killed at the Munich Olympics by : (A) Your grandmother (B) Dallas Cowboy fans
(C) Jesse Ventura (D) Islamist males between the ages of 17-35

in 9/11/01, four airliners were hijacked and flown into the world trade center, one into the pentagon and one into the ground in rural Pennsylvania. They were hijacked by who (A) jewish pilgrims (B) dick cheney (C) members of the NAACP (D) Islamist males between the ages of 17-35
you know the rest guys and girls guess all islamists are terrorist in our eyes

Leave a comment


Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via https://michelf.ca/projects/php-markdown/extra/

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.