The ejection from a jetliner of an Arab-American member of US President Bush's Secret Service detail has re-ignited the ethnic profiling debate, and has sent the reality-challenged proponents of political correctness into a tailspin.

Agent Walied Shatner is crying racial discrimination because the pilot of the commercial airliner had the audacity to question Shatner's credentials when he strutted aboard the aircraft carrying a gun. I guess Shatner feels that the world would be a much better place if the pilot would have simply welcomed him and his sidearm aboard, tossed him a little bag of peanuts, and focused on getting that plane full of people up in the air as soon as possible.

Shatner, and others, should realize that racial profiling is now an absolute necessity--a sort of "suspect identification." Let's face it--there are plenty of justifiable reasons to place Arabs and Muslims under more intense scrutiny.

Muslim extremists have been responsible for countless acts of terrorism against Americans (and the West in general): the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000; the bombings of US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; the hijacking of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988; the 1983 bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut; the bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut; the hostage taking at the US Embassy in Tehran during the Carter administration. The list goes on.

Add all this to the fact that five of the seven countries listed by the US as sponsors of terrorism are Arab and/or Muslim (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria).

Sure everyone has a right to privacy, but that right should never outweigh the right to life. If limiting one's freedom is reasonably necessary to prevent harm to others, then so be it. We're in an era when Muslim extremist fruitcakes are slamming large commercial planes into buildings full of civilians and boarding airliners with bombs stuffed in their Reeboks. No one should have a problem with taking the time to answer a few questions, or to have their bags checked a little more thoroughly. Tolerance works both ways.

So why not subject every single passenger, regardless of religion or ethnic background, to the same extensive searches and security measures? Well, this just isn't effective. It's the same reason why police don't target 80-year old grandmothers in drug trafficking investigations.

Some might argue that Tim McVeigh (who bombed the Oklahoma City federal building) wouldn't have been screened out through this kind of racial profiling; however, the difference is that, unlike Muslim extremists, McVeigh only had perhaps a few dozen people who were equally fervent about his cause. Yossef Bodansky, in his seminal work Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America, noted the existence of a "solid, capable Islamic terrorist infrastructure in the West, capable of operating both at home and overseas" that does not rely upon specific instructions from Bin Laden. Clearly the threat to the Western world by Muslim extremists is far more widespread and imminent than the odd attack by a few redneck rebels.

Since the early 1990's the trend in terrorism has been toward directly targeting civilians. The end of the Cold War, the creation of new states, and the leaving of certain states in unstable or anarchic conditions gave impetus to the rise of a new set of Muslim extremists whose ideology or motivations call for indiscriminate targeting. In this climate, suspect identification is not only fair, but necessary.

Everybody's profiling now anyway. Even those who oppose ethnic profiling and are preoccupied with civility and political correctness still automatically racially profile their fellow passengers when they're sitting in a pressurized tin can hurtling through the sky at 600 miles per hour, 35,000 feet above the ground. At least if we know that it's being done before the plane gets in the air, people of all ethnic groups can feel safer.