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…
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…
Stay tuned for Part 2.