The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Smoking Gun

Just for once, it would be nice to hear the Obama administration (or for that matter, any recent administration) say, “We screwed up. We’re going to find out how to do it better, and then execute accordingly.” I guess that’s just too much to ask.

In the aftermath of the attempted terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound aircraft foiled not be the competence of our intelligence services or our TSA, but rather by sheer luck (the explosives failed to detonate), we hear John Brennan, President Obama’s chief counterterrorism advisor, state:
"There is no smoking gun. There was no single piece of intelligence that said, 'this guy is going to get on a plane.'"

Really? In the narrowest sense (typical of the lawyerly attitude that permeates this administration) he may be correct. They had no actionable intelligence that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab would board an aircraft with 80 grams of Pentrite hidden in his underwear. But … really?

Forget the fact that this guy’s own father tried to turn him in to a US embassy. Forget that he was on a terrorism watch list. Let’s focus on the real-time indicators: he bought a one-way ticket and he had only hand luggage. He was young, the native of a Moslem country, and was traveling alone, or so it seemed. That alone would set off alarm bells in any rational security officer’s mind, except for one thing. That’s a profile, and we can’t profile. Wouldn’t be fair, would it? Might anger the people being profiled, and then they'd hate us. In the words of Janet Napolitano, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, “The system worked.” Indeed, it did.

Nolan Finley comments on why "the system worked" and why we don’t profile:
We're paranoid of profiling. Remember the six Muslim imams who were yanked off a U.S. Airways flight three years ago after passengers became concerned about their bizarre behavior? Only one of the six had luggage, all were on one-way tickets, and they seemed intentionally provocative.

U.S. Airways responded, and was thanked with a federal discrimination complaint. Other airlines have faced similar discipline. Don't underestimate how that dampens their enthusiasm for dealing with suspicious passengers.

Could it be that the flying Imams were a set up, designed to make us skittish about singling out Moslem passengers. Nah, couldn’t be. After all, in the words of Mr. Brennan, this was simply an “isolated incident,” not to be confused with anything as distasteful as a repeated attempt by a known terrorist organization in its long term war against us. If you believe the current administration, we’re certainly not at war with them, so how could they be at war with us?

Update (1/3/10):

Politico reports:
All travelers flying into the U.S. from foreign countries will receive tightened random screening, and 100 percent of passengers from 14 terrorism-prone countries will be patted down and have their carry-ons searched, the Obama administration was notifying airlines on Sunday.

The more stringent Transportation Security Administration rules, to take effect at midnight, follow the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner headed into Detroit from Amsterdam.

Hmmm. Looks like profiling isn't such a bad idea after all.