Connecting the Dots – Part 1

While dealing with the recent database crash & recovery and studying for the latest round in certification exams, I was listening to the news media going on non-stop on the case of Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, a.k.a, the Underwear Bomber.  Who failed in doing what, did the system work or not, what is going to be done to prevent this from happening again, how many more billions need to be spent for airport security via scanning equipment, are they enemy combatants or criminals, who in the Administration is responsible & be held accountable, yadda, yadda, yadda….  If there ever was a case for Global Warming, the media certainly contributed to it by the amount of energy and hot air devoted to this subject.  And suddenly, this thought popped into my head:

The terrorists are winning.  That’s right, winning.

Now before you start screaming at the monitor and start writing nasty responses to this statement, bear with me.  And you might just agree with me, at least partially.

By the act of one person in a failed attempt to bring down a plane with a bomb in his shoe in 2001, we now have to take off our shoes while going through the security line at the airport.  Now with the latest attempt, are we all going to have to fly the friendly skies naked, or at least go through the lines sans clothes?  [There is an electronic means to do this, but it can be defeated by a determined terrorist (I’ll not go into details here).]  Just think – the act or acts of a few people have affected the travels of millions of people, millions of dollars that will be spent on new & improved screening equipment, and thousands of hours spent on this subject.  The military has a name for this – force multiplier.

The fear of being blown out of the sky is a great motivator, and thus a force multiplier for the terrorist.  All they have to do is occasionally try and/or succeed in bringing a plane down, and all the civilized countries will spend billions in resources to prevent the next terrorist attempt.  The latest episode is no exception – just think about the cost (and debate) on the new body scanners that are being considered.

What is not really discussed as much is the human factor.  From what I have been able to understand, the Underwear Bomber was able to board the plane without a visa or passport, had a one-way ticket, and next to no luggage.  If this didn’t raise any suspicions, then I have no idea what would. 

So now the discussion is how much technology can be thrown at the problem while taking the human factor out of it.  Except that the humans are running the equipment and setting the policies for how the equipment is to be used.  This is madness, because there is always a method that can defeat technology and static policies.  And I would hate to say it, but more terrorists and criminals have been caught using one method than all the other methods, but from a political standpoint, it can’t be used.  Yes, it’s the “P” word…

Profiling.

There is an old saying:  If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.  To use a more modern equivalent:  If a person looks like a terrorist, acts like a terrorist, talks like a terrorist, then you damn well better not let this person on the plane.  Except that isn’t done because “profiling” is against our sensibilities and/or laws, and therefore all the warning signs are ignored…at least in this country.

I remember going through the Frankfort airport in the spring of 2008.  I hadn’t had much sleep the night before, and was unfamiliar with the airport.  On top of that, I was afraid that I was going to miss my flight.  All of this set me up to get pulled out of line for some “special treatment” before I even went through the metal detector.

My passport & ticket were scrutinized, the computer swabbed down & the swabs put into a mass-spectrometer, I was wanded & then put into a “puffer machine,” and the carry-on luggage emptied onto a stainless-steel table.  Fortunately, I was not asked to strip, but I suspect that was the next step. 

Of course, they found nothing, and they apologized for the trouble they put me through.  I responded to them by thanking them for doing their job.  This brought smiles all around, and they gave me a ride to the gate for my flight.  Future trips through Frankfort were uneventful (they recognized me after that, but still put me through the process).

Another incident that I observed was another passenger arguing with the Lufthansa people about wanting to board the airplane ahead of everyone else.  The argument got louder and louder until a couple of Bundespolizei (German Federal Police), armed with submachine guns, showed up.  The passenger got real quiet, but it was too late.  He was led away in handcuffs.  He didn’t make the flight.

The bottom line is that the politicians and lawyers are taking away tools from the people charged with the safety and security of the public’s transportation.  They are more concerned with being politically correct than with the safety and comfort of the public.  Take the case of the flying Imams in which:

  • The imams refused to sit in their assigned seats. Instead, it is claimed that they fanned out in the cabin, sitting in pairs close to the front, middle, and rear exit rows.
  • Shahin and the two imams seated in Coach Row 9 requested seatbelt extensions (a strap with large metal buckles normally used by obese individuals to lengthen their seatbelts), even though flight staff say none seemed to need it. They then placed the extensions on the cabin floor in front of them, instead of attaching them to their seatbelts.
  • Three of the imams traveled without any checked baggage, and on one-way tickets.
  • According to a nearby passenger who spoke Arabic, the two imams sitting in the back of the plane, while speaking to each other in Arabic, mentioned Osama bin Laden and condemned America for "killing Saddam".

Any sane person in the post 9/11 world would think that these people were up to no good, and would complain or at least try to get off the plane.  But we are being told to be tolerant of other people’s religions, speech, and actions.  Personally, I would like to see how some of the people setting these policies would react in any of the above situations.  I would suspect that their attitudes just might change, especially if someone was trying to light a fuse before their eyes…

profiling

Stay tuned for Part 2.

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About Tom Roland

EE for 25 Years, Two Patents - now a certified PMP. Married twice, burned once. One son with Asperger's Syndrome. Two cats. Conservative leaning to the Right. NRA Life Member.
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13 Responses to Connecting the Dots – Part 1

  1. Braden says:

    I can only respond with two words: I Agree.

  2. Teresa says:

    They are making it hard for me to do my job. I have to fly–a lot–and between the baggage fees and the stuff I can’t take, I feel like I can only travel with an extra change of clothes and a toothbrush. [No toothpaste, because that might blow the plane up.] I seriously drive every where I can and loathe flying.

  3. DND says:

    Man, you trippin! Dhere aint no terrorist up in heer! Why you gotta be skarin folk?

  4. NEO, SOC says:

    Good post, Tom. I wonder if Glenn Beck is feeling the same?

  5. Right Truth says:

    Nice cartoon. On the terrorists winning, you are right. One guy with a panty bomb and here we go again. Passengers scared, nervous, billions more spent at the airport. The next terrorist will do something different and there we will go again.

  6. Shoprat says:

    We could turn the thing on a dime if we could get rid of the traitors amongst us.

  7. John Byrnes says:

    We don’t need profiling to identify Individuals like the Christmas-Day Bomber!

    Virtually all media outlets are discussing whether we should be profiling all Arab Muslims; I will in the one-page explain why we don’t need profiling. Over 15 years ago, we at the Center for Aggression Management developed an easily-applied, measurable and culturally-neutral body language and behavior indicators exhibited by people who intend to perpetrate a terrorist act. This unique methodology utilizes proven research from the fields of psychology, medicine and law enforcement which, when joined together, identify clear, easily-used physiologically-based characteristics of individuals who are about to engage in terrorist activities in time to prevent their Moment of Commitment.

    The Problem
    Since the foiled terrorist attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian national on Northwest Flight 253 to Detroit, the President has repeatedly stated that there has been a systemic failure as he reiterates his commitment to fill this gap in our security. This incident, like the Fort Hood shooting, exemplifies why our government must apply every valid preventative approach to identify a potential terrorist.

    The myriad methods to identify a terrorist, whether “no-fly list,” “explosive and weapons detection,” mental illness based approaches, “profiling” or “deception detection” – all continue to fail us. Furthermore, the development of deception detection training at Boston Logan Airport demonstrated that the Israeli methods of interrogation will not work in the United States.

    All media outlets are discussing the need for profiling of Muslim Arabs, but profiling does not work for the following three reasons:

    1. In practice, ethnic profiling tells us that within a certain group of people there is a higher probability for a terrorist; it does not tell us who the next terrorist is!

    2. Ethnic profiling is contrary to the value our society places on diversity and freedom from discrimination based on racial, ethnic, religious, age and/or gender based criteria. If we use profiling it will diminish our position among the majority of affected citizens who support us as a beacon of freedom and liberty.

    3. By narrowing our field of vision, profiling can lead to the consequence of letting terrorists go undetected, because the terrorist may not be part of any known “profile worthy” group – e.g., the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh

    The Solution
    Our unique methodology for screening passengers can easily discern (independently of race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, age, and gender) the defining characteristics of human beings who are about to engage in terrorist acts.

    The question is when will our government use true “hostile intent” through the “continuum of aggressive behavior” to identify potential terrorists? Only when observers focus specifically on “aggressive behavior” do the objective and culturally neutral signs of “aggression” clearly stand out, providing the opportunity to prevent these violent encounters. This method will not only make all citizens safer, but will also pass the inevitable test of legal defensibility given probable action by the ACLU.

    As our Government analyzes what went wrong regarding Abdulmatallab’s entrance into the United States, you can be assured that Al Qaeda is also analyzing how their plans went wrong. Who do you think will figure it out first . . . ?

    Visit our blog at http://blog.AggressionManagement.com where we discuss the shooting at Fort Hood and the attempted terrorist act on Flight 253.

  8. Tom says:

    Braden – Thank you.

    Teresa – It’s not only you. I when traveling to Germany, everything got searched, scanned, and otherwise examined.

    DND / Neo – Have no idea how Beck is feeling, although I imagine that he is making lots of similar points that I am probably going to raise in this series. And DND needs to pay attention to the news…

    Debbie @ Right Truth – You are right, the cycle will continue, and the terrorists will laugh their butts off at watching us scramble around.

    Shoprat – Which traitors? The ones in political office or the ones feeding the terrorists information?

    John Byrnes – Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. You raise a number of valid points.

    Profiling should be performed with a number of criteria: Nationality, travel history, and behavior only begin to touch what needs to be done to prevent people with ill intentions from even boarding the plane. Obviously, profiling solely on race (Arab, for instance) would not have prevented an African born terrorist from boarding an airliner.

    In the examples that I gave (myself included), I focused more on the behavior of potential troublemakers rather than ethnicity. The other thing is that we do need to have trained observers and policies that do not inhibit their job of keeping the public safe.

  9. Ken Taylor says:

    I agree with you Tom. The Christmas Day attack, even though the plane did not blow up was a total victory for Al Qaeda because of the terror that was created by the Obama administration in their reaction to the attack. Americans who travel now are terrorized daily by security measures which will not stop anything since Obama released publicly details of all security measures so that any terrorist that watched the news now knows how to beat our system.

  10. Tom says:

    And I would feel less safe knowing that various security details have been released. I’ll drive whenever possible regardless of the carbon footprint I may create.

  11. Joe says:

    If we really want to be safe in the skies, we need to strip-search little old grandmas, kids under 9 1/2 years of age and all people with short, non-arabic noses.

    Actually, John Byrnes’ comment was really good and deserves great consideration.

  12. 1. You’re correct and
    2. The “Flying Imams” (sounds like a trapeze act, eh?) WON their civil case.

    BZ

  13. Tom says:

    Joe – Points can be made all over the place on better ways of doing things. Whether they are practical or can be implemented is another point. The bottom line is that current airline security is severely lacking and inconsistent, and that puts planes and people at risk.

    BZ – I know the “flying Imams” won their case, although I’m really not sure how. What I do find interesting is that they expect us to sympathize and make exceptions for them, but not the other way around.

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