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Security Theater

Maureen Dowd nails it:

If we can’t catch a Nigerian with a powerful explosive powder in his oddly feminine-looking underpants and a syringe full of acid, a man whose own father had alerted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, a traveler whose ticket was paid for in cash and who didn’t check bags, whose visa renewal had been denied by the British, who had studied Arabic in Al Qaeda sanctuary Yemen, whose name was on a counterterrorism watch list, who can we catch?

The new procedures are all security theater.  What is needed is to actually use the tools we already have and to reform them.  For example, the no-fly list has so many false positives that it is worthless.  The majority of people on it aren’t terrorists and everyone knows it, so they don’t enforce it rigorously.  (It’s also unconstitutional, since it is punishment without a trial, being able to face ones accuses and see the evidence against one.  Of course the parts of the US constitution having to do with making war and civil rights are largely in abeyance, anyway, except when it comes to being able to tote around a personal machine gun.)

The kid had every possible warning flag.  He’s the person they should have been strip searching, as opposed to random strip searches and pat downs which do almost nothing.

As for all the new rules, they won’t make anyone safer, but they will make air travel even more unpleasant than it already is.  And given that air travel is already extraordinarily safe, far more so than driving a car or crossing the street, again, the new rules are just security theater.


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  1. S Brennan

    This is a re-post from CannonFire:

    An Islamic nutjob sets his pants on fire on an aircraft and…

    President Obama vowed an “accelerated offensive” against Yemen, it’s “a serious reminder of the dangers we face and of the nature of those who threaten our homeland…we do not yet have all the answers about this…[but] we will use every element of our national power to..defeat the violent extremists who threaten us…anywhere”.

    In fact, we had already been bombing Yemen. So maybe this is retroactive tag line when Obama says “accelerated”

    And speaking of “The Three Stooges” slapstick.

    If you had sent an “suicide bomber” on a one way mission and all he did was sent his pants on fire and burn his ding dong would you post something like this?

    “[T]he Al Qaeda affiliate said Abdulmutallab coordinated the plot with members of its group, using explosives that they had manufactured. The Web site posting was titled, “The Brother Mujahid Omar Farooq al-Nigeri’s Operation,” and it included a photograph of a smiling Abdulmutallab in front of an Al Qaeda banner”.

    Who in their right mind would post something like this? I mean…c’mon folks, I’d go into hiding. Not because I was afraid of Obama’s threats, but because I’d be afraid of appearing on a remake of “Jack-Ass”. If we would laugh at these fools once in while, we’d do ourselves and the world a favor, because, we wind up looking like buffoons for saying this is “a serious reminder…threat [to] our homeland…we will not rest” We need to give it rest and get a grip. We are talking about a man who burned his own wee wee here.

    Finally, “haven’t we, at long last”, run out of Bobbit jokes? Doesn’t Abdulmutallab, have all the makings a man who can step in and fill our need for a national fool? Of course we’d have to shorten his name to something like “A-dull-mut”…well…maybe, I should sleep on it.

  2. Lex

    I’m really curious about the claim from a Flight 253 passenger who says that he saw some seriously suspicious behavior involving Muttalab in Amsterdam. (And a second arrest in Detroit.)

    None-the-less, it’s all theater and fear mongering. Worse, our reactions only attempt to treat symptoms rather than curing the disease. Where are the major-league pundits pointing out our not-so-covert involvement in Yemen that preceded (and supposedly) provoked this attack?

  3. Lex: The AQ claim that this was in response to those attacks is nonsense. The hijacking plan was in operation well before the attacks occurred. I have a lot of problems with our policy of using drones to blow up people we think are in AQ, but using those particular attacks as an excuse for this hijacking is just after-the-fact rationalization.

    (I get the feeling from your qualifier that you suspected this, but just for the record …)

  4. I’ve had the misfortune of traveling quite a bit by air since 9/11. It’s been a study in the absurd. It’s not unusual to see a bunch of military-age male passengers sitting around watching as a senior citizen in a wheelchair is being “randomly” searched, probably because the latter changed their airline reservations. At one airport, I saw a couple of U.S. Navy sailors being ordered by TSA to take off their ribbons (the little cloth bits that represent medals they’ve received) in order to go through the electromagnetic gateway without setting off the beepers. Things like this make me wonder at our collective sanity. Would any society capable of serious thought do things like this?

  5. Formerly T-Bear

    Can anybody spot the difference?

    Northwestern 254


    One had nearly 1200 deaths, and was casus belli.

    Other knickers got twisted, a nation looses its grip on mental balance, perspective.

    Transportation is a basic economic activity, close it down, impede it significantly, there will be a result of significantly diminished economic activity. Look closely at the effect of closing borders has had on the educational output of the country, a canary if there ever was one, should signify dangerous fallout of irrational decisions. But that would presuppose capability for rational analysis.

    Where have the adults gone? Are the only ones in charge the tribe of hunters from “Lord of the Flies”?

  6. Lex

    Cujo: Well, it seems that we’ve been fiddling around in the Yemen for long enough to provoke an attack, and a great many of the GITMO detainees still rotting away there are Yemeni. But i’m not wholly convinced that AQ is even directly responsible for this, much less it being a retaliation for drone attacks.

    I think the whole thing stinks, from AQ taking responsibility for the failure of a not very impressive attack to the initial and then amended response of the administration…to the stupid politics being played with it.

    I’ve got a post up that explains my full feelings at S&R if you click through the name or Ian’s blogroll.

  7. Bobby the Lip

    Let’s not take the comedienne Dowd any more seriously than she deserves. And so far there are a number of different stories about how much was known about the Nigerian, how much his father informed our embassy of. Take a deep breath. Don’t expect all the answers within the hour (less commercial time) the program runs.

  8. gmanedit

    (From the copy editor: “random strip searches and pad downs”: it’s pat downs or pat-downs. I’ve started to see this online and want to stop it in its tracks. I was too late on “go to the mattresses.”)

  9. Mr Bear asks:

    Are the only ones in charge the tribe of hunters from “Lord of the Flies”?

    Simple answers to simple questions….

  10. Celsius 233

    Is this the Keystone cops or what? The only difference is people die in this circus.

    “We’re all of us children in a vast kindergarten trying to spell God’s name with the wrong alphabet blocks.” ~ Edwin Arlington Robinson

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