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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Monday, 14 August 2006, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
Monday, 14 August, 2006
By Emily Maitlis
Presenter, BBC Newsnight

Presented by Emily Maitlis

Passport stamp
Passenger profiling

If you're Nick Griffin and you're the chairman of the BNP you appear to think the best way to secure this country from terror is to stop all Muslims between the age of 15 and 50 from flying.

But in his inimitably subtle and considered way he has put his finger on one of the thorniest issues to come out of the foiled terror plots of last Thursday: Passenger profiling.

As travellers take to their tents around Britain's airports in anticipation of a long wait, we ask if it could make sense to target our security checks. Should lactating white mothers from Buckinghamshire be stopped and body-searched as readily as bearded Muslim men?

The question may sound as insulting as it does crude, but we listen to the growing argument for a more specific approach and debate whether we are being held back from an obvious policy by fear of the offence it would cause or by the acknowledgement it wouldn't actually make us safer anyway.

A friend of mine was stopped and searched repeatedly after the 7/7 attacks last year to the point where he said it almost became entertaining. He was a Young Asian Male. He was also a Sikh wearing a turban.

Hard to imagine a more visible symbol of his (non-Muslim) faith.

A point possibly overlooked by the guidelines provided to authorities in the wake of those bombings. Tonight, we'll be talking to an American who believes September 11th could have been avoided with the right passenger profiling and an Asian Counter terrorism officer who believes it's the equivalent of punishing the rape victim.

Critically Severe

The threat level has now been downgraded from critical to merely severe.

What does this mean?

Well the prospect of attack has become a little less imminent but still highly likely. Not that reassuring when you think about it. Meanwhile the Home Secretary John Reid has told us four attacks have been foiled since the London bombings last year.

We assess what happened in each one of those and where we stand regarding current terrorist prosecutions.


Here at Newsnight we've been getting excited about the prospect of endless blogging via our own website forum - to relish the chance, as our editor would have it, to hear from our 'opinionated argumentative computer-literate audience'.

It seems we've been joined in cyberheaven this week by non other than the 'son of a hard bitten toiler blacksmith'. One Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, leader of Iran.

Ok, so he didn't exactly land on our site. He started his own. We've included his address in case you need it.

Tonight we bring you a rare broadcast interview with him carried out by the American network CBS in which he claims this is 'the era for thoughts dialogue and cultural exchanges'. I'm sure he'd love some feedback (see above).


Some of the first feedback to that interview will come from the Israeli government, whom we're talking to tonight. Are they ready to have a cosy fireside chat with Iran?

And is the admission by their PM that 'mistakes have been made' tantamount to admitting they lost the war on Hizbollah? Does the beginning of this ceasefire mark the end of Ehud Olmert? Would Ariel Sharon - who's condition worsens as I write - have done things any differently?

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