Monday, January 04, 2010

No Smoking Gun...

That's what John Brennan, Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler of Something Having to do With the CIA and Homeland Security had to say about the inability to identify and stop the Pantybomber.

According to Brennan, speaking on Fox News Sunday, the Homeland Security folks had "snippets"of information about the Briefbomber, but not enough to put together into a coherent picture that would have allowed security employees to prevent him from getting on that flight to Detroit. According to Brennan, "there was no smoking gun..."

Except that, well, that there was a clear picture...for those of us who aren't government employees. And usually, when you have a smoking gun -- it's already too late.

I guess for someone to be considered a danger to the security of an aircraft, he has to walk through the airport with a flashing neon sign stapled to his forehead that says "I'm a TERRORIST!".

Let's give Mr. Brennan the benefit of the doubt for a moment, and let's say that the Security Apparatus did, in fact, have all the information that it's been reported to have had. According to those reports, Abdulmutallab was denied a visa by the British government, information they pass on to the U.S. Government, he was known to have been in Yemen, a hotbed of international jihad ---and information they got from Abdulmuttalab's own father -- who also told the CIA officer at the American Embassy in Lagos, "Hey, I think my kid might a jihadi."

That information was in the system, and someone took enough notice of it to put Abdulmuttalab on some sort of watch list.

Did they not know about this in Nigeria or Amsterdam? Because the kid got on planes despite being on a watch list. He has a Muslim name. He's travelling internationally without a passport or visa. He's buying a one-way ticket...with $3000 in cash. He has no luggage. None of these actions raised any eyebrows in either Amsterdam or Nigeria, and in addition, conventional airport security screenings missed his bomb entirely. What are the problems there, and why are such things still happening nine years after 9/11?

And then, finally, we have an aircraft damaged by fire, several hundred passengers saved by one of their fellows, and Janet Napolitano proclaiming a false victory.

No, no smoking guns here at all.

You begin to see a pattern emerge when it comes to the problem of catching terrorists before they get on aircraft.

These guys all follow the same modus operandi (I'll say it: the same profile), and yet, no one seems able to stop them. They all engage in the same kinds of behavior which are supposed to be red flags, but which get ignored or overlooked. There is a distinct and identifiable procedure that can be observed which often identifies them; shrewd (or merely just conscious) security people will be able to recognize them in a heartbeat, and thus, we hope, stop a would-be Peni-bomber. The same people who brought you 9/11; the high-school dropout, the obsessive cell-phone-user, the compulsive texter, the brain dead, the lazy, the unobservant, are still on the job. If you need proof of this, a man shut down Newark International last night because he went through 'security' ...backwards....and then promptly disappeared.

The next pattern: they happen to be Muslim. They have Muslim names. They often look Middle Eastern (and yes, I know Jose Padilla and Richard Reid don't look Muslim, we'll get to that in a minute). And somehow, less attention is paid to them and more to the grandmother in the wheelchair. Why? Because no one wants to insult Muslims. Fuck 'em; we wouldn't have to go through all this bullshit if it wasn't for them. If they don't want to be hassled and insulted, tell them to turn in their crazy uncles, brothers and fathers before they kill again. They know who these people are. I'm not concerned about inconveniencing Muslims and making them feel bad about themselves. When they stand up against their own for my right not to get blown up in coach, I'll start giving a shit about their self-esteem. The point is to discourage the Would-Be Muslim Bomber from even attempting to get near the airport by letting him know "We're waiting for you..."

As for Reid and Padilla, they probably (I don't say definitely) would have been caught with the application of some common criminal profiling techniques. Trained police officers are often able to spot the criminals and troublemakers before they do anything, because experience has given them a keen eye for certain details, and allows them to interpret subtle behaviors the rest of us would miss. But here's the thing: if we were profiling Arabs and obvious Muslims, we'd discourage them from flying almost entirely --- and we'd have the resources to better catch the Reids and Padillas with good ol' fashioned police work instead of a multi-billion dollar government boondoggle who's response to a bomb is to restrict rest room use..

Okay, so getting back to Mr. Brennan's assertion that there was No Smoking Gun, given what we know now, it seems that:

a) Homeland Security would never have been on the lookout for Pantybomber in the first place. The information on hand did not point to an "imminent" threat -- just a possible one. TSA and Homeland Security don't work int he realm of the possible, only that which is actually happening, and even then, it's bureaucratic process probably prevents any meaningful action from taking place. I guess to Homeland Security a threat of jihad is simply that. Political Correctness prevents this bureaucracy from paying close attention to the people it probably should be paying attention to (i.e. Muslims and criminals), and even when it is on the ball, the 'system;' is inflexible and reactive, rather than dynamic and proactive.

b) The system which is supposed to share and disseminate this security information and intelligence absolutely creaks and is grossly inefficient. The great clue here is that even when the security regime is in full possession of an awful lot of dots, there is no one to connect them. And certainly not on a Holiday weekend. It's apparent that when the security apparatus is in possession of information that could save lives, that information often falls into a bureaucratic black hole which ensures it's rarely acted upon, or even reacted upon smartly, but which always figures large in the inevitable over-reaction in the aftermath of a (near-)tragedy.

c) Airport security is too-obviously focused on finding conventional weapons (knives, guns, and so forth) and not in catching terrorists. That is a focus that needs to be shifted if we're to actually start catching some of these guys before they do harm. We're about to spend billions on full-body scanners in major airports, and I wonder if the money wouldn't be better spent teaching the slugs at TSA how to spot and stop criminals. The focus is put almost entirely upon technology which, unfortunately, tends to take the responsibility away from a human being. Human beings who begin to realize they aren't responsible for anything soon rely too much on the technology, and failures proliferate. Put the human beings back in charge, train 'em up, and then hold them responsible.

It appears from the tale of the Underwear Bomber that, yeah, there was a smoking gun. Many of them. The line goes all the way back to the American Embassy in Lagos, it runs through the State Department, the CIA, Homeland Security and the TSA. None of these mega-agencies seem capable of putting 2 and 2 together and coming up with 4, not without bureaucratic lag, and certainly not in a timely fashion which might save someone's life, and certainly not with the would-be killer's father ratting him out.

Mr. Brennan should be ashamed of himself for having the gall to appear on television yesterday to defend the indefensible (see here). Nine years after the World Trade Center became a smoking crater, this country is still unprepared to defend itself against terrorists, and it's because of incompetence at the highest level, political correctness run amok, and a failure to apply common sense.

No Smoking Gun, indeed...

Update: More on your government's stupidity here and here.

And Still More: Terrorism is a Low Priority for Obamabi Administration, says GOP. Also, Brennan should have resisted the urge to open his big, pie hole and not spill the beans.

New and Improved More: Ralph Peters says the Terrorists are outsmarting us.

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