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As Long as We Remember...

January 8, 2010

Another Systemic Screw-up

Roy Meachum

Some five years ago, in August, I was caught in Turkey when an attempt on an airliner occurred using fluid from the suspect’s shaving kit; that was when the feds proclaimed a limit on liquids brought on board.


Departing Istanbul presented no difficulty, getting out of Frankfurt’s Rhein-Main was another case. I dumped several ounces that cost me money. All passengers were required to pass through two identical check points; presumably if the first set of numbskulls failed to catch the contraband, the second set would. It was so illogical that a German manager with whom I had been talking in English apologized to me (in German) for the totally redundant waste of everybody’s time: Es tut mir sehr Leid.


On that occasion, I witnessed personally the urge of bureaucracy to make up for its own mistakes by inflicting on the public more inconvenience.


Because a screwball English national tried and failed to set off an explosive hidden in his shoe, we all have to shuffle through airports’ security in our socks. The basket bounces on the rollers, complete with footgear, through a separate X-ray. There are no exceptions. One must dress for flights with particular care the pair matches and has no holes.


In the latest incident, on Christmas Day, because “the system” flat-out didn’t work, all passengers must suffer, especially those from 14 countries, all Muslim, simply because the latest suspect professes Islam. Evidently, Americans and Europeans will suffer no further penalties and indignities; I forgot delay, which is a form of Purgatory.


Will someone please explain how the new discrimination toward citizens of those 14 nations assuages that inflammatory belief?


Never mind that his Muslim father reported to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria that his son had gone around the bend toward radicalism, in part because the younger man fervently believed the United States meant to exterminate his religion. That’s what the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are about, al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups preach.


The suspected bomber’s name, all by itself, is sure to set off the round of public bigotry and persecution seen after the renegade Muslims destroyed the World Towers, with a murderous excursion against the Pentagon. At least this time we don’t have a White House prepared to exploit our paranoia, spreading terror for its own political purposes.


The 9/11 attacks were eventually proven to be a breakdown in the intelligence gathering system; the last administration tried a fix by anointing the Homeland Security Agency. Since the White House discovered after the fact that at least one part of the federal government failed to relay information, the high muckety-muck created the National Counterterrorism Center.


I’m sure the Center people did all they could. But they can’t circulate information on terrorists bureaucracy refuses to share. Whereas 9/11 prompted no court-martials or firings, this president has an obligation to correct that performance.


Heading the firing list should be John O. Brennan, the president’s counterterrorism chief. His attitude exactly exemplifies how Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab got so far. Mr. Brennan kissed off what he termed “disparate bits and pieces of information” available. The most damning reflection of his thinking: “There was no smoking gun piece of intelligence out there that said he was a terrorist.”


By his statement, Mr. Brennan appears unwilling to consider the suspect still; maybe the White House expert on counterterrorism would have really believed the Nigerian capable of terrorism if he had blown up the Delta-Northwestern jet. That’s called covering up for screwing up.


Certainly, Americans would sleep better tonight if they knew the people who let the latest wannabe bomber into the country. They are the real enemies to everybody’s peace of mind.


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