Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Obama handles Northwest Airlines terror incident differently than Ft. Hood

Yet Ft. Hood was where people died. Is it only terrorism if it doesn't succeed?

The Obama White House has been aggressive in its press outreach regarding the Northwest Airlines terrorist incident. Some of the earliest stories on accused terrorist Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab's attempt to set off an explosive device on board Northwest Flight 253 were sourced to the White House, and White House officials were quick to label the incident an "attempted act of terrorism." The White House wants the public to know that President Obama, on vacation at a luxurious oceanfront home in Hawaii, has received conference call updates and is keeping close tabs on the situation.

"President Barack Obama's Christmas Day began with a briefing about a botched attack on an airliner in Detroit," began an Associated Press account published Christmas evening. "Obama's military aide told the president about an incident aboard a plane as it was landing in Detroit just after 9 a.m. here [in Hawaii]. The president phoned his homeland security adviser and the chief of staff to the National Security Council for a briefing…'We believe this was an attempted act of terrorism,' one White House official said on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive situation."

Those details didn't come from nowhere. "Within a few hours of the Delta/Northwest Airlines flight touching down in Detroit, a senior administration official telephoned and e-mailed members of the White House press pool," writes the Atlantic's and CBS's Marc Ambinder, a reliable source of the White House perspective. The administration message: We're on the case. "The apparatus of government is in high gear now," Ambinder reported.

The White House messaging on the Flight 253 affair stands in stark contrast to its handling of the massacre at Ft. Hood, Texas in which Obama, on the day after the killings, cautioned the public against "jumping to conclusions" about the murders of 13 people, and then, a day later, declared that "we cannot fully know" accused killer Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's motives. Now, the administration is openly using the T-word.

But it appears the White House's press outreach has been more extensive than its outreach to actual officials in the government. "They're keeping information very tight, in terms of not giving it to Congress," says Republican Rep. Peter King, who has been on television frequently in the hours since the incident. "There are not too many details coming out."

In his appearances, King, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, has been described as having been "briefed" on the issue. It turns out he has been briefed, but not by the administration. "When I say 'briefing,' these are people on my staff who are in contact with people in the government agencies," King says. So far, King has had just one contact with the administration: a phone call from Homeland Security deputy secretary Jane Holl Lute, who told him about airport security measures. Beyond that, nothing. "As far as all the other details I've gotten, they came from sources that we have in the government," King says. "I understand the Democrats are getting the same treatment, so it's not a partisan thing."

The important issue now, King says, is for officials to get to the bottom of how the incident could have happened. "There are real issues we have to look at as to why [Abdulmutallab] was on a watch list, or why he was on a classified file that the our government had on him, and yet he was not on a no-fly list and not on a secondary screening list," King says.

King isn't blaming the Obama team for what happened. "If [Abdulmutallab] was known about for two years, then that goes back into the Bush administration," King says. Still, it is the Obama administration's responsibility to find out what happened, and King is hopeful but a little wary. "The only reluctance I have is that the White House would not cooperate with us on the White House gate crashers incident, which was far less important than this," King says. Now, with an incident involving the nation's defenses against terrorism, "We have to have a full investigation as soon as possible."



One war Obama is keen on

Taking his vendetta with Fox News to a new low, President Obama sent an administration spokesperson to appear on every network but Fox to discuss the Northwest Airlines flight 253 terror attack.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs appeared on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, NBC’s Meet the Press and CBS’ Face the Nation. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano appeared on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, NBC’s Meet the Press, and CNN’s State of the Nation.

Communicating to the American people the facts and status of an attempted terror attack should be of paramount importance to a President plunging in the polls, but Obama appears more obsessed with ostracizing Fox News than keeping the American people informed of the war on terror.

The Fox network has the highest cable network ratings beating every other network. Shouldn’t the administration want their message to reach to the largest possible audience? Perhaps the Obama administration is afraid Fox might ask questions about their Homeland Security policies that allowed the suspect to be purged from the government database of potential threats.

The White House reports Obama received a brief update on heightened air travel safety measures and the investigation. It would be interesting to know how much time Obama spent organizing his administration’s media strategy to blacklist Fox News.



Some questions that need answers

Situational awareness is a term I learned from the fly-guys. When you’re hurtling along at 1000 miles an hour, knowing where you are (and where you need to be) in relationship to the ground and every other aircraft isn’t a matter of passing interest, it’s a matter of life and death. It’s the same thing for drivers, especially those who are talking on the cell phone while smoking a cigar and driving a car with a six-speed manual transmission.

Being on an airliner or a train is pretty much the opposite, especially at the end of a long trip. On a long transatlantic flight -- even in business class -- all you want to do is get off the doggone plane, get through customs and home to that waiting hot shower. You’re not thinking about someone seated a few rows in front of you who has a bomb concealed in his underwear.

That’s not your problem, right? They screen everyone, the highly-trained Federal Air Marshals are on board -- undercover -- and ready to spring into action. But what if they’re not? What if you’re departing from a high-risk airport such as Amsterdam’s Schipol, with a young Nigerian man aboard whose explosives go undetected? And what if there are no watchful FAMs aboard? It’s not only your problem: it’s the problem of every person on that aircraft.

For all the inconveniences we go through -- for all the blue-haired Norwegian grannies who are practically strip-searched regularly at the airports -- our security people seem to be unable to stop even the crude kind of attack attempted by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Christmas Day.

No sentient being could have been comforted by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s ABC TV appearance on Sunday morning. No matter the question, she stuck to her mantra of how the system reacted perfectly to the attack, impervious to the question of why the system didn’t interdict it. She said in-flight aircraft were warned, the crew of Flight 253 reacted well and so forth. But she evaded every substantive question Jake Tapper asked.

Tapper asked questions -- ranging from why Abdulmutallab wasn’t prevented from getting on the flight to why DHS has spent billions on new technologies but hasn’t yet fielded one of them -- and Napolitano ducked every one.

Congressional Republicans should be asking Napolitano some pointy-type questions right now. Such as:

1. Abdulmutallab’s father apparently reported him to the embassy in Lagos, saying he'd turned radical. Who shared that information and with whom? Was there any follow-up?

2. What is the function of the so-called “Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment,” which listed Abdulmatullab, other than to keep DHS bureaucrats employed?

3. What does it take to be promoted from the “TIDE” list to the “no-fly” list?

4. Abdulmutallab has apparently claimed that Yemeni al-Queda planned the attack and provided him with the means. Are those claims true?

5. What preventive actions are being taken while Abdulmutallab’s claims are being investigated?

6. In light of Abdulmutallab’s claims, will the administration delay or cancel plans to release some Gitmo inmates to Yemen?

7. The flight reportedly had no Federal Air Marshals aboard. Why? Schipol is notoriously lax in security.

8. How much has Homeland Security spent on new passenger and baggage-screening technologies? What do we have to show for it?

Which brings us back to our personal dilemma: we can either stop flying -- which we mustn’t do -- or we can take personally our duty to defend ourselves and our fellow passengers in the air.

TSA shouldn’t panic: no one is advocating sneaking weapons aboard or punching every suspicious person in the gut. But what I am saying is that our right of self defense is also a duty and it has to be undertaken seriously.

We have to be aware, and we have to be willing. How many of us would have reacted as did Jasper Schuringa, the brave Dutch filmmaker who jumped over other passengers to subdue Abdulmutallab and put the underwear fire out? Too few, I’d guess.




A non-Christian Christmas for the Obamas: "President Obama and his family celebrated Christmas in Hawaii on Friday, but with their own twists. The president and his wife, Michelle, started their day at 6:40 a.m. by going to the gym -- a feat unimaginable to most parents of young children eager to open presents on Christmas morning -- and returned more than an hour later. The first couple did not swap presents, aides said. And the Obamas did not attend church services, instead spending the day at the oceanfront home they are renting in Kailua, on the island of Oahu. Later on, the children -- along with Obama's sister, Maya Soetero-Ng, her husband, Konrad Ng, and their children -- were to open gifts. A meal of roast beef and potatoes was to follow, aides said." [I don't claim to be a Christian but even I attended the cathedral service in honour of the day]

Obama supports oil drilling in Brazil but not in the USA: "The U.S. government is preparing to provide up to $10 billion in loans to finance the development of massive hydrocarbon reserves off Brazil’s coast thought to contain 80 billion barrels of high-quality crude, an amount that could lead to a six-fold increase in Brazil’s current proven reserves and transform that nation into one of the world’s 10 largest oil producers. President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James Jones, discussed the matter with officials this week during a visit to the South American country, Brazilian Planning Minister Paulo Bernardo da Silva told reporters. He said the U.S. Export-Import Bank already has signed a letter of intent in that regard with Brazilian state oil company Petrobras."

Poll: Just 29% Say U.S. Heading on Right Course: "Just 29 percent of U.S. voters now say the country is heading in the right direction, the lowest level measured since early February, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. The percentage of voters who felt the country is heading in the right direction remained in the narrow range of 31 percent to 35 percent from July to early November. For the previous three weeks, however, confidence in the country’s current course has held steady at 30 percent. The majority of voters (65 percent) continue to believe the nation is heading down the wrong track. The latest finding is up slightly from last week and has remained fairly consistent for months. In the weeks just prior to Barack Obama's election, more than 80 percent of voters felt that way. Eighty-nine percent (89 percent) of Republicans and 74 percent of unaffiliated voters believe the nation is heading down the wrong track, findings that have held roughly steady for months. Democrats are more closely divided on the question: 52 percent say right direction, 38 percent say wrong track. Just nine percent (9 percent) of GOP voters say the United States is heading in the right direction."

Housing boom in southern Israel: "When Israel launched a massive offensive in the Gaza Strip a year ago, political leaders said the primary objective was to snuff out cross-border rocket fire against villages in southern Israel. That military mission has largely been accomplished. Launches of short-range Qassam rockets plummeted 90 percent to a decade low in 2009. The newfound peace of mind has fueled a surge in demand for homes in a region that people had been fleeing. Although much of Gaza remains in ruins, renewed interest in real estate in Sderot, the main target of the Qassam rockets, has pushed home values up by as much as a 30 percent. In the kibbutz, or farming collectives, around Gaza, there is also a resurgence in demand. Yisrael Gunwerg, a real estate marketing executive for neighborhood projects at two kibbutzes, said sales of new homes have tripled while prices have risen 15 percent. However, that sense of relief belies a long-term trepidation that a new, worse flare-up is only a matter of time. Southern Israel residents are aware of Israeli army intelligence assessments that Hamas is learning the lessons of the war and stocking hundreds of missiles in preparation for another round of fighting."

Hollow talk: "President Barack Obama on Monday vowed to use ‘every element of our national power’ to keep Americans safe and said the failed Christmas Day plot to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner was ‘a serious reminder’ of the need to continually adapt security measures against changing terrorist threats. But even as Obama spoke, word came that a State Department warning had failed to trigger an effort to revoke the alleged attacker’s visa.”

TSA admits it: Rules confusion is intentional: "You are now free to move about the cabin. Or not. After a two-day security clampdown prompted by a thwarted attempt to bomb a jetliner, some airline officials told The Associated Press that the in-flight restrictions had been eased. And it was now up to captains on each flight to decide whether passengers can have blankets and other items on their laps or can move around during the final phase of flight. Confused? … The Transportation Security Administration did little to explain the rules. And that inconsistency might well have been deliberate: What’s confusing to passengers is also confusing to potential terrorists. ‘It keeps them guessing,’ transportation expert Joseph Schwieterman said.”

UAW: We did it for cars, we’ll do it for your kids: "Michelle Berry runs a day-care service from her home in Flint. Although she owns the business, Berry’s been told she is now a government employee and union member. It’s not voluntary. Berry and 40,000 other Michigan private day-care providers have union dues taken out from the child-care subsidies the state sends them on behalf of their low-income clients. The ‘union’ is a creation of the United Auto Workers. This racket means big money to the UAW, writes the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank.”

Cash for Clunkers: Home edition: "Cash for Clunkers (cars) is over. Cash for Clunkers (houses) continues. Legislators just extended the scandal-marred $8,000 home- buyer tax credit — which means another $11 billion will be wasted. Ground zero of last year’s financial crash was the politically driven collapse in the housing market. Six years ago, Rep. Barney Frank, now chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, declared: ‘I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing.’ Uncle Sam rolled the dice a lot, and we all are paying the bill.”

Notorious British "child protection" authority still being careless: "An urgent review has been ordered after the 15-page Haringey Council file, which included details about a boy taken away from his mother over fears he could be abused, was found in a railway carriage in London. "This is an isolated case but of course the council is extremely concerned that sensitive papers relating to child safety appear to have been left on public transport," a council spokesman said. "It is the position of the council that such documents should be stored and used securely. We will urgently review our procedures and tighten them where necessary to make sure it doesn't happen again." A council worker has been suspended while the review is carried out." [They're clearly just bureaucrats who don't give a damn until they are caught out]

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Larry Sheldon said...

I wish you would post each item separately so I can comment on a part (and more importantly, so I can point a part out to somebody that needs to see it.

Somebody does not need to die for terrorism to succeed.

If an act strikes terror in people, it succeeded.

Jeff Green said...

Excellent post JR! Now look at how the extension of the home buyer tax credit impacted the housing market. Some good sales (proven) but some bad predictions after expiry. Who knows.