Friday, January 08, 2010

The Elephant in the Room

NPR had a couple of stories this morning on airport security and the underwear bomber. While both had some interesting information, I found myself getting angrier the longer I listened. Why? Because they kept ignoring the real breakdown in the whole system. They were going on and on about how the intelligence agencies are "inundated" and suffering from information overload. They went on about the full body scanners that wouldn't have caught this guy even if they had been used. I got mad, because they kept ignoring the real question:

How did a lone traveler, who paid cash and had no luggage for an international flight, get on a plane without additional screening?

See, either of those factors alone are generally considered suspicious, and should warrant additional scrutiny. Both together should be a red flag to screeners that this person should be thoroughly investigated before being allowed on the plane. Add in his religion and national origin, and you should have a Big Giant Red Flag signaling that this person should not get on a plane without a strip search and maybe a body cavity search, too.

This was not a failure of the Watch Lists, or the CIA/NSA/FBI or any other intelligence agency. This was not about the failure to use the full body scanners that were at the airport where he boarded. Yes there were failures at all those levels, but they were all irrelevant in this case. This was a failure on the part of the TSA to recognize basic signs of a suicide bomber. This was a failure to use basic security procedures that would have caught this twit in the absence of all the information that the CIA/NSA/FBI/TLA had. Basic procedures that would have stopped him without relying on all the high-tech gizmos that may or may not work.

It just shows that, as many others have pointed out recently, this administration is fundamentally unserious about real security.

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