Thursday, January 7, 2010


Did you ever get a job where you had to watch one of those stupid training films?  You know the ones - the 'new hire' makes a series of obvious mistakes that are pointed out and corrected.  They are sort of a 'don't do this' method of training.

Is it just me, or does this whole Christmas Day EunichBomber episode seem like a really bad TSA/DHS/airline training film?

Think about it - almost every single red flag that could be hoisted was, and yet he was still able to get on that plane and attempt to blow it up.  Each step of the way, if this had been a training film, there would have been a big, flashing red X superimposed on Abdulmutallab, accompanied by a loud buzzing noise.

Let's see...The NSA got intelligence from al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate that they were going to use a Nigerian in an unspecified terror attack.  Then Abdulmutallab's own father warned the US Embassy in Nigeria of his son's radicalism.  For some reason, these two things were never connected.  Apparently the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) was never notified of either piece of intelligence - if they had, one would hope they would have connected those giant, flashing neon dots and Abdulmutallab wouldn't have been allowed on the flight.  X!  X!  X!  BUZZ!

There were also conversations between Abdulmutallab and at least one al Qaeda member (reportedly radical Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi - the man who allegedly counselled Ft. Hood shooter Malik Nidal Hasan) that were intercepted by US officials.  Unfortunately, a radical Yemeni talking to a radicalized Nigerian apparently wasn't enough to warrant further investigation, even with the NSA intelligence mentioned above.  BUZZ!

On top of that, he was in our terrorist database because of his father's attempts to warn us, but not on a terror watch list, no-fly list or a special screening list.  This is because they felt there just wasn't enough information to warrant his being put on the watch list, let alone the no-fly or special screening lists.  In Britain, if you are on a watch list, you don't come into the country.  Period.  But in the US, we have a tiered system - a database of about 550,000, on which Abdulmutallab was listed.  Then there is the 400,000 person terror watch list.  Then there is the 14,000 person special screening list, and, finally, the no-fly list, which has about 4,000 names.  One would assume this tiered system is to make sure we don't step on any innocent toes.  Wouldn't want to profile or make wild assumptions, now would we - it might hurt someone's feelings (even though the main database is for people with suspected or known terror associations).  I suppose a father turning in his own son just isn't credible enough to get him on the no-fly list.  Apparently we have to wait until he sets his crotch on fire before we can safely assume he doesn't have our best interests at heart.   BUZZ! 

There is a lot of talk about insufficient technology at the airports - not enough puffers and full body scans and the like.  First of all, poorer countries like Nigeria have more important things to spend their money on than body scanners.  Besides, what do they really care about the safety of US citizens, after all?  We certainly cannot afford to pay to have all international airports upgraded - we can barely afford to upgrade our own.  Forget about all of the high-tech stuff - if he had just been frisked, they would have found the bag of PETN explosive strapped to his torso.  Someone in a terror database should at least be frisked, for heaven's sake!  BUZZ!

For that matter, why aren't the terror watch lists/databases international?  Apparently, Abdulmutallab was in a US database and a UK no-fly list, but not an international one.  Why?  Many terrorists are from overseas, so why aren't our international allies notified?  Aren't we all supposed to be working in concert on this?  Why are there different lists?  So much for a 'global community'....BUZZ!

No one has yet been able to explain satisfactorily how he managed to get through security with a syringe filled with an unidentified substance, either.  BUZZ!

The UK revoked his visa back in May, but apparently didn't notify the US - perhaps if the Obama administration hadn't waged that bizzarre campaign to insult and alienate our greatest ally, they may have shared that little tidbit with us.  My question is, why did a man on a terror database get granted a visa in the first place?   And if the visa was granted before his inclusion on the database, why didn't a red flag that he was already a visa holder go up when he was entered into the database?  One would assume the State Department would automatically check the database before issuing a visa - but that would require common sense - something it is becoming more and more apparent that is sorely lacking in our government.  BUZZ!

Well, at least his visa has finally been revoked -tweleve days after the event.  BUZZ!!

Let's not forget the airlines in all of this.  They are our last line of defense, and they performed miserably.

He is a single young man who bought a one-way ticket.  BUZZ!

He then paid for said ticket with cash.  BUZZ!

The cherry on top, though, was the fact that he had not one single piece of baggage for a transAtlantic flight.  XXX!  BUZZ!  BUZZ!  BUZZ!!!!!

If this wasn't so dangerous, it would be comical.  But the fact is, Abdulmutallab nearly succeeded in his plan.  The only thing that stood between him and a horrific tragedy was a malfunctioning detonation.

This is really the best we can do, 8 years and three months after 9/11?

Perhaps it's time to think about privatizing our security agencies.  It is becoming more and more apparent that the bureaucracies in place now are as ineffective and bogged down in red tape as every other government bureaucracy.  Let's face it, government agencies just simply are not known for their practicality, innovation and quick action - things that are desperately needed right now.

At the very least, it's time to get all of our various security agencies into a room and make them watch a 'training video' like I just described over and over again until they get it.  Maybe a few team-building workshops between the agencies wouldn't be a bad idea either.  They expect us to trust them with our lives, but they can't even trust each other with information.

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