TSA Lying (Down) On the Job

The system worked?! On what planet?

By now, we've all heard the sorry tale of Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, who tried to ignite a bomb stashed in his undies while on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, celebrating Christmas in what's fast becoming customary Islamic fashion.  Braver than shoe bomber Richard Reid, yet not quite so committed as the Saudi Arabian butt-bomber, Mr. Mutallab's efforts were every bit as painfully unsuccessful as those of his predecessors in the field of explosive unmentionables.  He now resides somewhere in a secure hospital wing nursing his injuries.

Just as you'd expect, now comes Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to weigh in on the matter.  Politico informs us:

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Sunday that the thwarting of the attempt to blow up an Amsterdam-Detroit airline flight Christmas Day demonstrated that "the system worked." ... Napolitano added that there was "no suggestion that [the suspect] was improperly screened."  [emphasis added]

In a long history of government-sponsored lies and deceit, this simple statement must surely stand tall as perhaps the maximum amount of falsehood packed into the shortest possible sentence. She jammed in even more lies than when Bill Clinton said "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

If this was an example of the DHS or TSA system working, we'd hate to see an example of where it failed!  Even the usually sober-minded and sedate Economist was left reaching for a suitably strong word:

In the wake of Friday's attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, the people who run America's airport security apparatus appear to have gone insane[emphasis added]

All the King's horses and all the King's men had nothing whatsoever to do with the foiling of Mr. Mutallab.  No security checkpoint found his bomb or even questioned him particularly closely.  No sky marshal held him at gunpoint; no CIA team jumped him on the boarding ramp.

No, once again, in what should by now be a clear pattern, ordinary people successfully defended their own lives in the hour of need.

Dutchman Jasper Schuringa dived on London student Umar Abdul Mutallab, 23, who had lit a powdered substance inside his underpants as the Airbus 330 came into land at Detroit airport in Michigan.

Businessman Jasper, 32, who suffered burns to his hands as he desperately tried to douse the flames, modestly said: "I heard a big bang, like a fire cracker going off, someone shouted, 'Fire fire!' and I knew something was terribly wrong...

"I was on the right side of the plane and the suspect was on the left, there were quite a few seats in between but when I saw the suspect was on fire I freaked of course but without any hesitation I just jumped over the seats and towards the suspect because I thought he was trying to blow up the plane...

"So I grabbed the suspect out of his seat because I thought he could be carrying more explosives and that could be very dangerous because he was almost on fire." [emphasis added]

Heer Schuringa is to be honored for his quick thinking.  It's particularly interesting to see a Dutchman now doing what Americans have done before.  (Is there hope for Europe yet?)

Yet what possible "system" is it that depends on civilians to grab terrorists out of their seats at the last possible second?  Shouldn't the police have snatched him long before?

In fact, the police had every opportunity to do so.  Far from being an impoverished unknown, Mr. Mutallab was the son of a wealthy Nigerian banker.  He lived in a mansion in London while he attended school there.

What's more, Mr. Mutallab senior seems to be an urbane, civilized man who abhors violence: as soon as he became aware of his son's involvement with extremist Islam, he warned the United States!

...His father contacted security services and the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, to warn that he feared his son might intend to participate in "some kind of jihad," the family source said.

The family member said Abdulmutallab "had no family consent or support" and that he "absconded to Yemen."

It is hard to imagine a more thoroughgoing, total, far-reaching, abjectly utter failure of a "security system."  Here we have an individual whose own family told us was planning a terrorist attack; who had been denied for a visa renewal in Britain; who should have set off every alarm in the book by buying an international plane ticket with cash and checking no luggage - and he still was allowed on the plane, leaving innocent passengers to fend for themselves.

Why are we paying countless billions of dollars and suffering innumerable indignities from a bureaucracy incapable of stopping a villain who exhibits all the competence and foresightful planning of the Beagle Boys?  Huey, Dewey, and Louie would be more competent security guards than the TSA buffoons.

So, what's our response to this signal failure?  No prizes for guessing: more onerous security restrictions, and of course, more money.  Travelers are now forbidden to use blankets and pillows, recline their seats, or leave their seat for the last hour of international flights - oh, and the in-flight entertainment is turned off too.  At the airport, we'll be seeing more of the infamous "naked scanners" that turn everyone into a stripper.

Despite believing that "the system worked," Janet Napolitano thinks we can make it even better... by letting TSA clowns unionize!  As if sacking the hopeless losers wasn't hard enough already!

The "system" is not working in any objective way, if you make the assumption that its purpose is to provide security for the air-traveling public; even Barack Obama knows that.  If, however, you assume that its purpose is to provide job security for otherwise unemployable bureaucrats and Democratic apparatchiks... it's working perfectly, as every last suggested response to this latest failure would reward the failed agency: more money, more power, more paper-pushers and more cattle-prodders.

Whereas, if we really cared about solving the actual problem, we wouldn't need a massive bureaucracy to do it.  Though you wouldn't know it to hear Obama talk, there is a very specific attribute that links each and every one of the terrorists who've been attacking our airways for a decade now, and almost all non-aerial attackers as well.

Since Obama and the TSA still haven't figured it out, we'll give them a hint: It is not Presbyterians, Hindus, Buddhists, or Catholics who are trying to light their shorts on fire.  Surveil - or better yet, ban entirely - accordingly!

Or we'll all find ourselves flying chained up, in the nude, and paying vast sums in taxes for the privilege.

Read other Scragged.com articles by Hobbes or other articles on Bureaucracy.
Reader Comments
I think it's important to remember that the TSA didn't protect one single person on that flight. The TSA didn't stop the bomber. No TSA agents put out the fire.

Passengers did.

December 31, 2009 10:12 AM
Also, buying an international ticket with cash and checking no baggage is hardly suspect.
January 3, 2010 2:51 AM

The Times points out that Saudi intelligence is on the ball. Too bad ours isn't.

Bomb Plot Shows Key Role Played by
The foiling of the package plot was a sobering reminder to officials around the world that quick response to timely intelligence rules the day.

In the middle of last week, a woman who claimed her name was Hanan al-Samawi, a 22-year-old engineering student, walked into the U.P.S. office in the upscale Hadda neighborhood of Sana, Yemen's sprawling capital city. She displayed a photocopied identification card, and dropped off a bomb hidden inside a printer cartridge with a Chicago address listed as the package's destination. A few blocks away, another package concealing a homemade bomb was dropped off at a FedEx office, also seemingly headed to Chicago.

Within days, the two packages had advanced through four countries in at least four different airplanes - two of them carrying passengers - before they were identified in Britain and Dubai after an 11th-hour tip from Saudi Arabia's intelligence service set off an international terrorism alert and a frantic hunt.

The foiling of the package plot was a significant success in an era of well-publicized intelligence breakdowns and miscommunications.

It was also a sobering reminder to officials around the world that quick response to timely intelligence rules the day. Despite the billions of dollars governments have spent on elaborate airport technology to guard against terrorism threats, the packages would probably have been loaded onto planes bound for the United States, but for the Saudi tip.

But the plot also points up holes in the system, particularly the security of cargo flights, that have already caused criticism abroad and are likely to rekindle new debates in the United States.

In Qatar, officials acknowledged Sunday that one of the packages had been carried on two Qatar Airways passenger planes, apparently having eluded the airline's cargo screening system. In Britain, officials were embarrassed about how long it took the authorities to identify one of the packages as a carefully concealed bomb.

American and Yemeni officials still have little hard evidence about who was involved in the thwarted attack. On Sunday officials in Yemen discovered that Ms. Samawi's identity had apparently been stolen, and that she was not the same woman who dropped off the packages. Ms. Samawi was released on bail on Sunday, and the authorities in Yemen have thus far arrested no other suspects.

It was one more piece of a carefully designed and cleverly disguised plot that investigators believe was conceived by Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen, the group that American officials say might pose the most immediate threat to American soil.

In television appearances on Sunday, John O. Brennan, President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, said that American and British authorities were leaning toward the conclusion that the packages were meant to detonate in midair, en route to their destinations in Chicago. If that turns out to be the case, it would be a rare attack aimed at the air cargo system - one of the foundations of the global economy - rather than the passenger system, which has received the most attention from governments working to avoid a repeat of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

For the most part, governments around the world had bet that it was less likely that the cargo system would be the target of attacks, given that its flights carry few passengers.

"It is time for the shipping industry and the business community to accept the reality that more needs to be done to secure cargo planes so that they cannot be turned into a delivery systems for bombs targeting our country," Representative Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in a statement.

November 1, 2010 5:53 AM

I can't believe what I read! Is there not one agency/department within
the whole of the Federal Government that knows what the hell they are
supposed to do? It appears not!

A Civilian Office for Federal Overview should be established as soon as
possible to thwart a complete melt down of the Federal Government. We
have no leadership. There is no leadership in either House and there is
no leadership in The White House.

December 5, 2010 7:13 PM

OK! What do you do with the comments?

December 5, 2010 7:15 PM

Comments go at the end of the article so that any reader can see them. Thank you for commenting.

December 5, 2010 8:08 PM
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