Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An unacceptable failure

Since network news has obsessed about the underwear bomber in recent days, I think it's time to offer my opinion on the subject. This -- in my opinion -- is the first major blunder of the Obama Administration. As the president said this weekend, it is an unacceptable failure by our intelligence community to let a man who we knew was being trained by terrorists to board an American-bound flight. This problem was supposed to be corrected after 9/11 when our intelligence agencies did not adequately share information that would have helped us stop the terrorist attacks. Clearly, that problem persists today.

But there also is concern that this is being turned into a politically hypocritical football.

FIRST: Any discussion about the need for full-body scans in the United States is bunk. The alleged terrorist boarded a plane in Denmark, so there is nothing the American-based TSA could have done to prevent the attempted bombing. Although I do not think our airport security is fully adequate, I do believe that a full-body scan is an unconstitutional intrusion of our civil liberties.

SECOND: It amazes me that Republicans are outraged that this 23-year-old joker (who burned his junk off while trying to light the bomb) will be tried through the American justice system. After Richard Reid -- a British citizen -- attempted to detonate a shoe bomb to blow up an American plane in December 2001, he was tried in American courts, convicted and given a life sentence in a U.S. maximum security prison. Where were all the haters back then? So, why are all of these conservatives afraid? Do you really think a jury full of 12 Americans are not going to convict this dude? If we lived by that system, then we should send Richard Popolawski down to Gitmo without trial, because we wouldn't want him to escape.

THIRD: It's becoming increasingly clear that if you enter any aircraft in our post-9/11 world, then you should be fully prepared to defend the plane and your life. The 32-year-old Dutch man who extinguished the bomb (and this Nigerian jackass) is a hero. He reacted immediately -- despite admitting to being scared -- and saved the lives of nearly 300 people. Each and every once of us should not trust any security measure. Whether it was this Dutch hero, or the people who stopped Richard Reid and his shoe bomb, or the 40 brave men and women on Flight 93, we must do everything in our power to care for ourselves and others.

And that is ultimately the answer to our safety conundrum. We must not wait for our government to protect us. We, the People, control more than we think.

(By the way: I would not encourage anyone to Google the words "underwear bomb" because it makes for several very disturbing photos)


  1. Interesting article. A couple points:

    1. Do you really think that a full body scan at an airport to increase security is an unreasonable search? I don't. I think it's perfectly acceptable. In any event, I have only been through a full body scanner once (I was given the option to use it or not during a pilot program), and it's really no big deal. As someone who used to travel 4 days a week, I don't mind enhanced security at all to increase my safety.

    2. Agreed.

    3. Also agreed. I've long thought that while what happened on 9/11 was a tragedy, it could have been averted if the people onboard reacted quickly and cohesively. Unfortunately, once the folks on UA 93 reacted, it was too late and things went South. The Dutchman was just following in his heritage by plugging the proverbial dam with his thumb.

    You would think that as an extreme conservative I would be in agreeance with your point #1, but I just don't see how a full body scan at airport security is an unreasonable search. Invasive? Yes, but private and less invasive than a pat-down. Slightly inconvenient? Maybe, if you're not used to it. Unreasonable? No.

  2. I would hate to be on the other end of your full body scan!

    And my biggest problem with full-body scans in American airports is that they would not have prevented this attack. Both Reid and the underwear bomber were flying from foreign airports. There's nothing the TSA can to to prevent that.

  3. I gotta say, that while I have no problem with the full-body scan, you're dead-on that the problem is INTERNATIONAL Airport Security. On trip back from Italy, we were amazed at how much faster and seemingly lax Rome's security points were.

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  5. Agreed with MJ and El Duffo. I realize the security in the US didn't fail this time, but why not put better security measures in place in the US now as a preventive measure rather than doing what we usually do and employ new technologies as a reactive measure - after lives are lost?

  6. If you have been listening to CNN, the Obama Administration is to blame even though the crazy would-be crotch bomber boarded the plane in The Netherlands.

    And, of course, the first thing I did after reading this post was Google "underwear bomb." You had to include that didn't you Mike.

    Happy New Year.

  7. I tried to warn you, Scooter! At least you didn't Google "Crotch Bomber" (don't be tempted).

    Where I think the Obama Administration and our intelligence community failed was in allowing this kid to board the plane. When his father told our Nigerian Embassy that he is dangerous, they should have connected the dots and revoked his Visa and put him on a no-fly list. No excuses. We dodged a bullet, and they better fix the problem.

  8. It's a big world out there. The U.S. ambassador in Nigeria was a Bush appointee. Chances are, she soon will be replaced.

  9. Mike... The Obama Administration and our intelligence community weren't the ones "allowing this kid to board the plane..."

    Short of making departure points in airports where flights terminating in the US originate literally US territories... I'm not sure how much control we can exert over foreign transportation bureaus. Would that be imperialistic of us? To make Gate C in the Amsterdam airport a US territory so that we have full control over a closed-security environment?...

    On the topic of full body screening... I don't see how this is an unreasonable infringement on personal privacy. You want to board the plane. We want to be SURE that you are not carrying a bomb or other dangerous device. This technology gives us that assurance. It's entirely pertinent to the issue at hand- preventing people from carrying bad things on airplanes.

    We already put our bags through an x-ray scanner that a human being looks at to identify illegal objects. Why not our "person"?

    Now, if they wanted to go through library records, that would be unreasonable. Whether or not I checked out 1,000 books on jihad is immaterial to whether or not I pose a direct threat to THIS flight via my carrying a bomb or other aggressive object. Similarly, I may have checked out Ronald Reagan's biography 84 times in the past 2 years, but that doesn't mean you are going to let me carry a sawed-off shotgun onto the plane. Ancillary searches are unreasonable and are a violation of my privacy. Doing a full and thorough search of every physical object- person and luggage- getting onto a plane is entirely reasonable. If you don't want some chick looking at a vague and grainy black and white electronic representation of what may or may not be your cash and prizes, rent a hyundai and drive to Cancun :-)

    Full body scanning is much more efficient than randomly pulling people aside to pat them down, ask them questions, and otherwise beat around the bush... the bush being "do you have something that will allow you to kill everyone else on this plane?" The body scan answers that question simply by having you walk through an archway.

  10. You didn't read what I wrote, Elipses. The United States does control who enters the United States. This kid should not have been allowed to fly to an American destination, whether they revoke his visa or put him on a no-fly list. It was an American jetliner, so they can control his ability to purchase a ticket to an American destination.

    And the full-body scan infringement argument is all a matter of opinion. Some people say yes, some people say no. I think it is unreasonable.

  11. I admit, I don't travel internationally so I don't have experience with how countries determine who gets in or not. At what point in the travel procedure does the US "touch" an incoming traveler? If I am in Amsterdam and buy a ticket to Detroit, when is the first opportunity for the United States to be aware of my impending arrival? I assumed it was once I exited the plane in the Detroit airport and went through customs. How is the "no-fly" list administered (acknowledging that abdulmutallub wasn't on that list)? Is it an Interpol thing or some other organization? As I understand it, abdulmutallub bought his ticket within a short period of time of boarding the plane. Aside from a ticket agent and a security guard, who accesses the individual prior to boarding the plane? Where does US authority start in that process?

  12. I would have no problem with the full-body scans. Anyone who flies in this country should already have come to terms with the fact that it's a mind-numbing, anger-inducing, degrading experience. Think "cattle." Of course, it's easy for me to say since I long ago swore off flying. I think the key here is to require that foreign countries from which U.S.-bound flights depart have the same security standards as we do. If they don't want to comply, they don't get flights to the U.S.

  13. But even if each airport purchased these full-body scanners, there is no assurance they will be effective. Remember a few years back when several airports tried using the explosive sniffers? That was a monumental failure and waste of money. Plus, you still must rely on human beings to view these body images and make split-second decisions.

    The only way I think any of us will be safe on an airplane is if they no longer allow carry-on baggage. Either that, or lock the overhead compartments once the plane leaves the gate. If I'm not mistaken, this underwear bomber had tools and syringes in his bag to build the detonator.

    Regardless, we live in a free society. With those freedoms, we must understand there are many dangers out there that criminals and terrorists can exploit.

  14. Which is why I drive. I have yet to have a militant Muslim hiding in my trunk with a bomb. ;-)