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Vigilant or paranoid? Reexamining ‘See Something, Say Something’

"Though we are a bankrupt city and now a terrorized city, we will not be beaten," San Bernardino City Attorney Gary Saenz said during a vigil at San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino on Thursday night, Dec. 3, 2015 following a mass shooting that left 14 people dead and 21 injured on Wednesday at the Inland Regional Center.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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America’s relationship with the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign can best be summed up in two words: it’s complicated.

The operation, which has been adopted by the Department of Homeland Security, is supposed to make ordinary citizens the first line of defense in the fight against extremism. But the San Bernardino attacks have led some to question the effectiveness of the approach -- especially since it could be seen as a way to encourage racial profiling.

Case in point, before the massacre that left 14 dead,  the suspected shooters practiced at a gun range in Riverside. Range instructor, John Galletta, was asked by the Associated Press why he didn't report the couple’s activities. He replied, "Americans look different. They vary in size, shape, color, ethnicity, and you can't tell what someone is planning or preparing to do."

How can "If You See Something, Say Something" be used effectively, and where's the line between being a good citizen and profiling?

Take Two put that question to David Schanzer, professor of public policy at Duke University’s Triangle Center of Terrorism and Homeland Security.

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