Monday, December 28, 2009

More questions on the failed TSA

It is astounding to watch how the Obama administration has been dealing with the most recent incident on a international flight. We should itemize first, all the ways in which the bureaucratic system of governance failed to deal with the problem.

We know that the family of the would-be terrorist, Umar Abdulmutallab, had warned the U.S. government that he had become fanatical in his Islamic beliefs and that they felt he posed a threat. We know the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria was informed and passed the information on to Washington. The U.S. Embassy, however, didn’t revoke Abdulmutallab’s existing visa to fly into the United States. Instead they decided to flag it for more investigation if were to apply for a second visa later on. So, while they felt the threat was possible, they decided to allow him to fly without any further investigation at this time.

Once the information got to Washington the terrorism bureaucracy put Abdulmutallab on the list of possible terrorists and that is all they did. No other action was taken. And when Abdulmutallab purchased a ticket to fly to the U.S., the government warning system on terrorism gave him a clearance, no red flags of any kind were waved. Security personnel were not told that Abdulmutallab deserved any extra scrutiny whatsoever.

Then we learn that Abdulmutallab purchased his ticket at the airport with cash, which our government says is a “red flag” and that he had no checked luggage for his international flight—allegedly another red flag. So we had red flags flapping wildly in the breeze and the terror bureaucracy simply passes Abdulmutallab for the flight. And security personnel never found the explosives that Abdulmtuallab strapped to his leg nor the syringe of liquid he had hidden in his underwear.

Now let’s investigate what did work. Abdulmutallab attempted to light the explosive. It popped, it fizzled, it sparked and it sent off some smoke and some flames. But it didn’t explode, which is pretty much what happened last time this was tried. Passengers immediately saw what happened and jumped Abdulmutallab. Horrors! They left their seats during the last hour of the flight, something that is now forbidden by bureaucratic edict alone. The passengers worked. They grabbed the man, they extinguished the flames, they took him into custody and with crew members handcuffed him. They even strip searched him to make sure he didn’t have other explosives on him. The crisis was averted for two reasons. First is the difficulty of concocting a bomb on the plane means that no explosion took place, only sparks, some flames and smoke. Second is the fact that passengers will act when they have to and are especially vigilante since 9/11.

Yet Reichführer Janet Reno went on television to tell the nation “the system has worked really very, very smoothly over the course of the past several days.” The New York Times reports: “Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, echoed the positive comments Ms. Napolitano made on ABC’s ‘This Week,’ saying in an interview on ‘Face the Nation’ on CBS that ‘in many ways, this system has worked.’”

Worked for whom? It has given immense powers to unelected bureaucrats. It has created a massive bureaucracy that lives off taxpayers and sucks up to politicians for more goodies. It has stripped Americans of numerous freedoms. But it hasn’t worked in stopping incidents like this.

The government’s famed database on terrorism suspects failed since Abdulmuttalab was listed there. An official for the government told the Times, “The information goes in there, and it’s available to all the agencies. The point is to marry up data from different sources over time that may indicate an individual might be a terrorist.” Unfortunately it appears that the way government works the data is not “married up” until after something happens.

And consider how the government bends over backwards to avoid stereotyping potential terrorists. They will have staff pat down, bark at, search and harass some 90-year-old Anglican nun with a walker even though one fact remains constant for the terrorists and it isn’t that they are Anglicans. The reality is and has been that the attackers are Islamists. In order to not discomfort Muslims the government policy is to waste a lot of time discomforting everyone.

If a women were raped we don’t randomly search people on the street. And the police don’t just go out and start questioning women, old men in wheelchairs and children. The reality is that the rapist going to be a man in virtually case, and he is going to be over a certain age and physically capable of using violence. Resources are not expended on individuals unlikely to have been involved. But at the airports 99% of the effort to find terrorists is diffused among people who are unlikely to be terrorists.

The net result is that the effort is spread out thinly with random individuals being subjected to extra measure mainly for show. Meanwhile the individuals who fit the profile of the typical terrorist—male, young and Muslim—can pass cursory inspections, as Abdulmuttalab did. Since the government refuses to “profile” suspects this means that every passenger, unlikely to be a terrorist, acts as a cover for the terrorists. Government randomly picks passengers for extra scrutiny because the “uncertainty” is supposed to impede the terrorists. But the odds are with the terrorists. Only one out of millions of people is likely to be a terrorist. So the chance of being randomly selected for extra scrutiny is almost non-existent. The only other option is to profile who is chosen for extra security measures but that violates some politically correct worldview and is shunned.

Even Christopher Hitchens seems annoyed at the utter stupidity of the moves by Napolitano. Pesonally I like Hitchens as an individual. We had to work together at one point and our interactions were pleasant and I got a signed copy of God is Not Good out of the deal. But Hitchens was one of those wrapped up in the fever over the war on terror. Perhaps he is starting to figure something out: just because you favor government doing something that would be objectively good doesn’t mean that the government will do the job well. In fact, there is a high chance that they will not only do it badly but make the original problem worse in the process. Hitchens writes:
Why do we fail to detect or defeat the guilty, and why do we do so well at collective punishment of the innocent? The answer to the first question is: Because we can't—or won't. The answer to the second question is: Because we can. The fault here is not just with our endlessly incompetent security services, who give the benefit of the doubt to people who should have been arrested long ago or at least had their visas and travel rights revoked. It is also with a public opinion that sheepishly bleats to be made to "feel safe." The demand to satisfy that sad illusion can be met with relative ease if you pay enough people to stand around and stare significantly at the citizens' toothpaste. My impression as a frequent traveler is that intelligent Americans fail to protest at this inanity in case it is they who attract attention and end up on a no-fly list instead. Perfect.

It was reported over the weekend that in the aftermath of the Detroit fiasco, no official decision was made about whether to raise the designated "threat level" from orange. Orange! Could this possibly be because it would be panicky and ridiculous to change it to red and really, really absurd to lower it to yellow? But isn't it just as preposterous (and revealing), immediately after a known Muslim extremist has waltzed through every flimsy barrier, to leave it just where it was the day before?

What nobody in authority thinks us grown-up enough to be told is this: We had better get used to being the civilians who are under a relentless and planned assault from the pledged supporters of a wicked theocratic ideology. These people will kill themselves to attack hotels, weddings, buses, subways, cinemas, and trains. They consider Jews, Christians, Hindus, women, homosexuals, and dissident Muslims (to give only the main instances) to be divinely mandated slaughter victims. Our civil aviation is only the most psychologically frightening symbol of a plethora of potential targets. The future murderers will generally not be from refugee camps or slums (though they are being indoctrinated every day in our prisons); they will frequently be from educated backgrounds, and they will often not be from overseas at all. They are already in our suburbs and even in our military. We can expect to take casualties. The battle will go on for the rest of our lives. Those who plan our destruction know what they want, and they are prepared to kill and die for it. Those who don't get the point prefer to whine about "endless war," accidentally speaking the truth about something of which the attempted Christmas bombing over Michigan was only a foretaste. While we fumble with bureaucracy and euphemism, they are flying high.

Below is a recording of a live announcement from a pilot regarding the new retrictions that Janet "Iron Fist" Napolitano is going to impose in order to give you the illusion that the government is making flying safer. Please act deluded. Failure to act deluded could be cause to harass, threaten, taser, shot, or incarcerate you. Remember, Big Brother is our friend.

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