I would really like to eavesdrop on what the various agency excuse-makers are hearing from Obama. I just have this feeling it's not as calm and measured as his press statements. Anyone with a slight familiarity with presidents knows they usually don't skin their department heads in public. We can draw some inferences.
Long before the World Trade Centre attack, airport security was supposed to know certain red flags applied. Passengers who paid their fare in cash are suspect. Passengers without baggage for anything longer than a commuter flight are suspect. Passengers to whom both these applied are suspect squared.
So when someone shows up at an airport in an island of stability (cough) like Nigeria, pays $2800 for an intercontinental flight and has no baggage, should this not make someone just a little suspicious? Apparently not.
Now, about watch and no-fly lists. Once upon a time I had a job with a federal agency charged with entry into the US among other things. Even back then there were watch lists. The established bureaucratese held that "watch" meant watch, not ignore. We are told there are 500,000 people on the list. So? There's been this invention called the computer: use it. It also seems that both watch list and no-fly lists would work better if the people on them were actually people who should be watched, and if the various agencies concerned would fix mistakes and apologise rather than stonewalling. Instead, we have lists cluttered up with six-month old infants, 87-year-old great-grandmothers, a pilot for a major airline, a Welsh insurance salesman (Welsh looks a lot like Arabic to an idiot), and a U.S. Senator. I am making none of those up.
Late news. The infant is now eight years old and according to the New York Times, he is still
on the list. After reading about the "method" behind compiling these lists, I'm glad I have an
obscure name. The risk seems to be less.
Beyond the agencies we have the conditioned whine reflex of public, media, and interest groups. Were it not for that reflex there would far more sophisticated detection mechanisms in place now...although I gather that any bomb-sniffing dog would do as well to detect the primitive explosives recently employed by the thuggery.
Few people raise privacy objections to x-rays. Yet, when x-rays were discovered and first employed, the same--absolutely the same--objections were made to x-ray machines as now appear in connection with full-body scanners.
Let's not neglect the goons on the other side, which has a host of idiotic indications. One is that terrorism is by nature an r-complex behaviour, a violent primal instinct unreachable by either intellect or imagination. This dooms them to almost infinite pattern repetition, and makes them pitifully vulnerable to exploitation by criminals who possess both imagination and acquisitiveness. Another is that it is impossible to find experienced suicide bombers. It is hardly less difficult to find people who are experienced operatives of any kind, chiefly because terrorism has a dauntingly high failure rate. This would occur to anyone not driven by their limbic system.
The horizon suggests some positive signs. One is that we now have an administration that doesn't use fear as a political tool. It seems capable, therefore, of keeping its mouth shut now and then. The other side has trouble coming up with its own ideas, so it has long been vitally important to deprive them of the speculations of politicians and pundits. They have boasted that those speculations have been a useful substitute for their own absent thought.
Let's liven things up with a few federal firings or dismal reassignments to provide both theatre for the public and incentive for our own idiots to do much better.