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yep that is what I did. thanks.

Hi Michael:

On a completely different subject...did you see that recent New Yorker article debunking FBI profiling? Considering your professional interests, I was wondering if you had any comments. Personally, i started the article ready to dismiss it, but was left wondering about the efficacy of profiling by the finish.

I haven't seen the profiling article, but it does seem as if profiling, which benefited from media hype for a long time, is now experiencing a backlash. From what I can tell, profiling is sometimes a useful tool, but at other times it leads an investigation astray (e.g., Richard Jewell in the Atlanta bombing case). It doesn't help matters that the FBI, probably the main proponent of profiling, is too arrogant to admit its mistakes.

If you are interested, here it is online:

Opps. It's called Dangerous Minds,
Criminal profiling made easy.
by Malcolm Gladwell

Don’t profile in an airport? 12 middle-eastern looking young men arrive late on an overseas flight and they are shuttled right through while the TA folks are shaking down granny while her grandchildren wait for her.

Statistically we are putting all Americans at increased risk for being politically correct.

This part about 12 middle-eastern men arriving late for an air France flight from Paris to Cincinnati actually happened to a flight I was on last year.

Air France took the entire luggage back off the plane and everyone back off the plane and complete individual personal head to toe inspections were conducted twice. The twelve young men’s passports were gone over at least 3 times page by page. They looked though mine once.

The plane was 2 hours late taking off. I asked air France why so much attention. He responded that air France does not want to be the airline that goes down with 350 Americans on it.

Apparently the French have no qualms about profiling. If one understands such things as risk management and statistics and effective utilization of resources one profiles. If one wants to be politically correct then you do not profile and “assume” granny is as great of risk as ………………..

Assume is the most common human error made.

I think the Gladwell article (which I haven't read) probably deals with behavioral profiling in criminal cases, which is different from the kind of profiling that might be done at an airport. Behavioral profiling involves looking at a crime and trying to determine what sort of person would commit it - young, old, organized, disorganized, personally connected to the victim or not, etc. It can be of value, but sometimes profilers get things entirely wrong, and even when they are right, their analysis is usually too general to yield workable leads.

My take on crimes is that once law enforcement gets in their heads it is a certain person or type of person the rational open mind pretty shuts down. I.e. example duke case.

In that scenario I think profiling could be a deterrent to effective law enforcement.

Thanks for the article Tony. I read it, Michael, and it is about criminal profiling. The conclusion reached at the end appears to be that it's similar to cold reading in that, as you said, the statements are so ambiguous they can be applied to anything (like cold reading).

I found it interesting because I watch a show called Criminal Minds which is about profilers in the FBI, and seeing how the media portrays it vs. how it's actually done is interesting. In the show they always catch their man and their statements are never shown to be false. It makes me wonder how the media might portray profiling if they thought it was bunk.

I don't watch a lot of TV but I do enjoy Criminal Minds, accurate or not. It usually starts and ends with a quotation from a great writer or philosopher, which is a nice little touch.


I have to say that the article's conclusion is even more damaging. Cold reading by fraudulent psychics is deception. The article suggests a deeper self-deception. The practitioners of criminal profilers cannot see the deception due to their arrogance - a common FBI failing. It's fairly devastating.

I suspect that criminal profiling fails when pursued to the level of specificity some of its practitioners claim. I think that its directive to think back from the evidence into the mind of the killer is useful. I would also suspect that in most "ordinary crimes" tools of profiling are useful and even unconsciously employed by many detectives.

For example, a policeman arriving at the scene of a break in sees a kicked in door, the bedroom and the medicine cabinet. It’s a neighborhood known for drug dealers. He assumes from what he sees that it was a break in by a junkie looking for cash or drugs. 99% of the time, such a guess is probably right.

To be fair, FBI profilers are called in on the most difficult cases – the exceptions to the rules. The DC Sniper is a case in point. I assumed at the time the profiles were off base because what was their really to compare it to? (Also, witness reports carried by the media seemed to contradict the FBI stories early on.) They are going to inevitable have challenges.

Clearly, however, they make it worse by digging down to an absurd level of detail that limits rather than informs the investigation.

It’s an interesting debate – one that raises questions.

I heard on TV that the dc case a psychic was called in and helped with that case.

I suspect the day will come when psychics will be more help than profilers.

Every week the medium on the TV show called medium solves a case every week. Here in phoenix we could not solve a case without her. Sorry my idea of humor.

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