Dec 22nd 2001 – Dec 25th 2009: Both days of TSA infamy.
On Dec 26th I got an email that contained the skinny on the PETN/TATP syringe bomb that Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab tried to use on the Christmas day flight. Inside sources confirned that the bomb was much like that which Richard Reid tried to detonate on his flight back in 2001 on Dec 22nd. Eight years later, the same bomb maker (a likelihood) has made another bomb that was either defective, or, the end user was equally as defective as Mr. Reid at its use.
What has eight years taught us?
Did we indeed stop Umar from boarding the plane whatsoever?
Did we in fact have any more stringent security measures in detection of such a bomb and materials to actually catch it?
Did we in fact put out a BOLO on Umar and stop him from boarding a plane?
Sorta, but no. We did have him on a watch list.. That was not consulted and he was allowed to fly as well as have a valid visa for traveling in and out of this country.
… So, what did we really learn from Mr. Reid’s ersatz attempt? Oh yeah, that we need to take off our shoes at the airport screening center to make sure we don’t have any PETN bombs in them. We did not learn to think a bit more agilely and perhaps assume that these bombs might be placed in other areas such as orifices or, as in the case of Umar, sewn into their underwear.
What has this all taught us then since this anniversary attempt was made? Let me list some things:
1) More young men from outside the nominal countries in the Middle East are being wooed into Jihad and radicalized online and in person. The “usual suspects” approach is a fallacy and must be thrown out the window.
2) Al Qaeda and like minded groups are bound and determined to use any and all weak spots to their advantage. In the case of air transport now, its all about “privacy” issues and not being patted down or sniffed in the crotch by your local bomb sniffing dog. AQ and others will continue to use these weak points as long as we ALLOW them to exist.
3) TSA/DHS and our government security bodies FAILED yet again in allowing this guy to board a plane. HOW is it that he was on watch lists and no fly lists and allowed on board? I mean we can send a man to the moon and we can talk over the internet on Skype, but we can’t circulate a BOLO to all parties who need it to stop someone from getting on a plane? WTF? The issue of stove piped groups and technologies STILL applies and it will be our undoing.
4) MUCH of the efforts that you as the air traveler go through to get on a plane are in fact “Security Theater” and as such, are there only to give a false sense of security to the masses. We as passengers should realize that every time we get on a plane we take our chances regardless of the nice TSA man’s taking away our shampoo at the gate… Because it could be TATP.. Of course they don’t test that do they? Nope.
In short, we are being led to believe that our “security measures” worked even in this case as Janet Napolitano would like you to believe.. That is before she recanted that statement today. Lady, don’t squat on me and pee then tell me it’s just a different kind of facial ok?
You LIE madam and no amount of re-assurance is going to fool me into believing that you guys have any real clue what you are doing. After all, you guys just lost the super secret manual for screeners ONLINE and then told the senate that it was “old” and out of date, thus no good to anyone. However, when pressed, you could not provide the “new” version of the document.
I will grant the security services this, terrorism is a moving target. However, I have seen your methodologies and I have to say, as a security professional, they are lacking. As is your oversight. So, really, please just give up the pretense and admit that you guys need some real help and some real guidance. My advice would be to call El-Al and say “please help us” But, that’s just me.
In the interim, you want these types of attacks to be thwarted? First get your act together on the “no fly” lists. DON’T let these guys get to the gate at all! Second, BUY AND USE the full body xray scanners and be damned with the concerns over people being upset because you can see a “version” of them naked. It’s really easy in fact to just make that image into a stick figure of sorts and have no attribution. In other words, we have to get over body image and privacy issues like this perceived one. If we don’t get past this then I can guarantee there will be another Umar/Reid and perhaps they might indeed be able to detonate one of these bombs.
Until then, I suggest every time you step into the airport you should be ready to accept that you may not come back because we are not doing the “due diligence” to secure our planes..
And if you really want someone to blame you can blame all of us. It’s exactly the complaints like:
“it’s so invasive!”
“It takes too long to get through the checkpoints!”
“I feel my privacy being stripped away!”
These complaints and more like them are driving initiatives to do too little in the way of really being secure. There’s privacy, then there’s real privacy. Being patted down is not exactly being strip searched out back is it? I would rather get a pat down than a free trip to the after life because the next guy didn’t want to get patted down or body x-rayed.