Tuesday, January 05, 2010

More security theater; more stupidity

Here we go again. The sponsors of the underpants bomber must be giggling in their caves. Under pressure from the 'fraidy-cat contingent (right wing Republican sub-set), TSA has decided to subject ALL airline passengers originating from or passing through 14 countries to special search procedures. The list:

Flights from Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria (countries classified by US as state sponsors of terror)

Also, flights from Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen


The 'fraidy-cat contingent screams DO SOMETHING; we must NOT apply common sense to keeping ourselves safe.

Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has some sensible thoughts on the measures we really need.

Attacks such as the failed plot to bomb the airliner on Christmas Day cannot possibly have a real impact on our nation in military terms. These attacks are a form of psychological warfare designed to impact public opinion -- the very definition of terrorism -- and make us do things we would normally reject, such as profiling.

Profiling sends the message to millions of Muslim travelers that it is their faith, not terrorism, that is the problem. This is precisely the talking point put forward by the religious extremists of Al-Qaeda who say the West is at war with Islam and all Muslims, and that everyone had better choose sides.

Religious profiling is a recruiting and public relations tool for terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda. Let’s not do Al-Qaeda’s work for them.

If not profiling, what action can we take to boost airline safety and security?

First look at behavior, not at faith or skin color. Then spend what it takes to obtain more bomb-sniffing dogs, to install more sophisticated bomb-detection equipment and to train security personnel in identifying the behavior of real terror suspects.

Along with boosting training and detection equipment, clean up the inaccurate terror watch lists that have ballooned in the post-9/11 era and work the kinks out of an intelligence system that would let a person get on a plane to America even after his own father had notified security services about his disturbing behavior.

Emphasis is mine.

Such thoughtful responses are not allowed. We must have more theater and massive over-reaction. The national character seems to be lurching closer to timid and feeble-minded by the day.

Photo by way of Atul's Blog.


Dan said...

I agree that much of this is theater and provides no additional safety to the traveling public. It’s reactionary and lacks common sense. I disagree however with your opinion on profiling. I think it is an effect tool (when used with other measures) to improve safety. I understand not all Muslims are terrorists but so far, all the terrorist have been Muslims. We should be taking a closer look at young Muslim men.

janinsanfran said...

I don't know Dan -- as I remember it, Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph were not Muslims.

But it is not just Muslims who are pointing out how dopey this is. In today's NYT there's this:

Some counterterrorism experts question how effective the new measures will be. Rick Nelson, a retired Navy commander and former supervisor at the National Counterterrorism Center, said terrorists could turn to a technique perfected by drug couriers — hiding explosive materials in body cavities. Instead of mandating pat downs, he argued, the United States must improve its intelligence network to disrupt plots before would-be terrorists reach airport checkpoints.

“We have to be careful not to play into the narrative that Al Qaeda has made up, where it is Islam versus the West,” he said. “We risk alienating the moderate populations that we need to be successful against Al Qaeda.”

libhom said...

You are much more likely to die in a drive to or from an airport than you are to be killed in a terror attack on a plane. People have lost all perspective.

Tina said...

because of my citizenship i am always searched in every single airport inside the usa or when coming to the usa. i take it with calm and always think that it would be good if all, including american citizens, were searched the way i am :)

@dwbudd said...

Interesting; of course, the indiscriminate wanding of passengers is hopeless, as are other "random" procedures.

A couple of minor quibbles.

First, the reaction of CAIR that profiling is religious is wrong. For one thing, Cuba is on the list, and I am guessing that few, if any, Moslems live in Cuba. The countries on the list are predominantly Moslem, but not exclusively so (e.g., Lebanon as well has a sizeable number of Christians. And more to the point, how do you conduct "religious profiling," when you cannot readily ascertain the religion of the person whom you are checking? Admittedly, one might say that closer checking flights from Saudi Arabia, Syria, etc. could be a proxy for religion, but the idea that this list is religious profiling is a talking point.

Second, the argument that Al Qaeda will use this as a recruiting tool and thus we ought not to do the profiling is a canard. No matter *what* the US (or any Western government do), Al Qaeda can and often do distort the action to their own ends. Propaganda is what movements of this sort specialise in, and thus we can scarcely use their objections and flat-out lies about the US in deciding what policies to promulgate. Put simply, no matter what the US does, Al Qaeda will frame it as an Islam vs. the West narrative, and to think otherwise strikes me as naive.

Still, an excellent point about the kabuki being masqueraded as "security."

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