In April, I wrote in these pages that reliance on racial profiling as a means to identify and capture terrorists would have the unintended and counterproductive effect of compelling the terrorists to recruit those who defied the profile, thus the terrorist organizations could maintain their plans to exact horror on the United States and others despite the use of this particular security strategy.
Unsurprisingly, Reuters is now reporting on successful efforts by Al-Qaeda to recruit those who may not fit the "terrorist profile," some well-known, others not:
- Richard Reid, the convicted British "shoe bomber" who tried to set off explosives in his footwear on a 2001 transatlantic flight, was a petty criminal who first turned to Islam during a spell in prison.
- Christian Ganczarski, a German suspected of involvement in a 2002 bombing in Tunisia, converted at 20 before embarking on a jihadist career in which, investigators believe, he became a close associate of bin Laden's.
- Jamaican-born Germaine Lindsay, one of four suicide bombers who killed 52 people in London in July
- Briton Andrew Rowe, jailed for 15 years last month for possessing terrorist materials.
- Frenchman Lionel Dumont, a suspected Rowe associate and another convert, will go on trial in December accused of a series of attacks in the 1990s, including an attempt to bomb a Group of Seven summit in Lille.
- John Walker Lindh, dubbed "the American Taliban," was convicted and jailed in 2002 for fighting alongside the Afghan militia
- In Australia, British-born Muslim convert Jack Roche was jailed for nine years in 2004 for conspiring to bomb the Israeli embassy in Canberra.
- U.S. citizen Jose Padilla has been held for more than three years as a suspected enemy combatant in connection with an alleged "dirty bomb" plot.
The advantage for militant groups -- and the problem for security agencies -- is that converts can often move more freely and attract less suspicion than people of obviously Middle Eastern appearance.
"Thanks to their physical appearance they can penetrate targets in Europe much more easily without being spotted," said Roland Jacquard, head of the International Terrorism Observatory in Paris.
"Now, when you take Muslim converts whose mother and father are French, English, Spanish or Italian and who live in society normally, with society's habits, they are absolutely undetectable."
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