In the course of a somewhat rambling discussion of the ways of bureaucrats Gary Aldrich tosses off an interesting observation: “TIPS is what the federal government does when it knows what to do, but cannot do it out of fear of being accused of racial profiling.” I think there’s something to that. The Feds can’t single out Palestinians or Wahhabis for surveillance, because that would be profiling, but they can respond to tips from informers, and if the informers happen to watch young swarthy males more than others, who’s to know?
It’s an application of the general rule that unrealistic principles in one part of a system lead to unprincipled realism elsewhere. The Roman Law adopted on the Continent in the course of the Middle Ages imposed the unrealistic requirement of two witnesses or confession before a man could be convicted. The result was judicial torture to extort confessions. Plea bargaining—extortion of confession by the threat of draconian punishment—is a similar accommodation to reality in a similarly unrealistic modern system. We live in an age in which law is idealized, but the more idealized the law, it seems, the more lawless the reality.