Thursday, January 07, 2010
Mickey Mouse air security
El Al could show America how. Meanwhile: The next TSA idea below:
AS hands are wrung in the aftermath of the near-tragedy on a Northwest Airlines flight approaching Detroit, a conversation from London's Heathrow airport in 1986 comes to mind. It consisted of an El Al security agent quizzing Ann-Marie Doreen Murphy, a 32-year-old recent arrival in London from Sallynoggin, Ireland.
While working as a chambermaid at the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane, Murphy met Nizar al-Hindawi, a far-leftist Palestinian who impregnated her. After instructing her to "get rid of the thing," he abruptly changed his tune and insisted on immediate marriage in "the Holy Land". He also insisted on their travelling separately.
Murphy, later described by the prosecutor as a "simple, unsophisticated Irish lass and a Catholic," accepted unquestioningly Hindawi's arrangements for her to fly to Israel on El Al on April 17. She also accepted a wheeled suitcase with a false bottom containing nearly 2kg of Semtex, a powerful plastic explosive, and she agreed to be coached by him to answer questions posed by airport security.
Murphy successfully passed through the standard Heathrow security inspection and reached the gate with her bag, where an El Al agent questioned her. As reconstructed by Neil C. Livingstone and David Halevy in Washingtonian magazine, he started by asking whether she had packed her bags herself. She replied in the negative. Then: "What is the purpose of your trip to Israel?" Recalling Hindawi's instructions, Murphy answered, "For a vacation."
"Are you married, Miss Murphy?" "No." "Travelling alone?" "Yes." "Is this your first trip abroad?" "Yes." "Do you have relatives in Israel?" "No." "Are you going to meet someone in Israel?" "No. "Has your vacation been planned for a long time?" "No." "Where will you stay while you're in Israel?" "The Tel Aviv Hilton." "How much money do you have with you?" "Fifty pounds." The Hilton at that time costing at least pound stg. 70 a night, he asked: "Do you have a credit card?" "Oh, yes," she replied, showing him an ID for cashing cheques.
That did it, and the agent sent her bag for additional inspection, where the bombing apparatus was discovered. Had El Al followed the usual Western security procedures, 375 lives would surely have been lost somewhere over Austria. The bombing plot came to light, in other words, through a non-technical intervention, relying on conversation, perception, common sense, and (yes) profiling.
The agent focused on the passenger, not the weaponry. Israeli counter-terrorism takes passengers' identities into account; accordingly, Arabs endure an especially tough inspection. "In Israel, security comes first," David Harris of the American Jewish Committee explains.
Obvious as this sounds, over-confidence, political correctness, and legal liability render such an approach impossible anywhere else in the West. In the US, for example, one month after 9/11, the Department of Transportation issued guidelines forbidding its personnel from generalising "about the propensity of members of any racial, ethnic, religious, or national origin group to engage in unlawful activity." (Wear a hijab, I semi-jokingly advise women wanting to avoid secondary screening at airport security.)
Worse yet, consider the panicky Mickey-Mouse and embarrassing steps the US Transportation Security Administration implemented hours after the Detroit bombing attempt: no crew announcements "concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks," and disabling all passenger communications services. During a flight's final hour, passengers may not stand up, access carry-on baggage, nor "have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap".
Some crews went yet further, keeping cabin lights on throughout the night while turning off the in-flight entertainment, prohibiting all electronic devices, and, during the final hour, requiring passengers to keep hands visible and neither eat nor drink. Things got so bad, the Associated Press reports, "A demand by one flight attendant that no one could read anything elicited gasps of disbelief and howls of laughter."
Widely criticised for these Clousseau-like measures, TSA eventually decided to add "enhanced screening" for travellers passing through or originating from 14 "countries of interest" as though one's choice of departure airport indicates a propensity for suicide bombing.
The TSA engages in "security theatre" bumbling pretend-steps that treat all passengers equally rather than risk offending anyone by focusing, say, on religion. The alternative approach is Israelification, defined by Toronto's Star newspaper as "a system that protects life and limb without annoying you to death". Which do we want, theatrics or safety?
DHS Decided It Was OK Not to Check Passengers Against Full Terror Watch List
Even if Umar Farouq Abdulmuttalab had never boarded that Christmas flight from Amsterdam to Detroit wearing explosive underpants, a passage on page 17 of a report published in July by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security would still be eye-popping. "Not all known or reasonably suspected terrorists are prohibited from boarding an aircraft, or are subject to additional security screening prior to boarding an aircraft," says the passage.
More than eight years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, people boarding commercial flights in the United States -- and sometimes those boarding international flights bound for the United States -- are still not screened against the government's full Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). This is not an oversight. It is a policy.
The TSDB, authorized by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 11 signed by President Bush in 2004, was specifically produced -- in the words of the directive itself -- "to detect and interdict individuals known or reasonably suspected to be or have been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism ('terrorism suspects') and terrorist activities." It is, according to the DHS IG, "the U.S. government's consolidated watch list of all known or reasonably suspected terrorists."
When DHS decided to launch its "Secure Flight" program so that the Transportation Security Administration would directly screen both domestic and international air passengers against watch lists -- rather than rely on airlines to do it -- there was some concern that TSA would not be checking air passengers against the full TSDB but only against two subsets of the TSDB. These subsets were the "No Fly" list and the "Selectee" list.
The former is a list of names drawn from the TSDB that the government has decided should never be allowed to board a plane. The latter is another list of names drawn from the TSDB that the government has decided should be automatically subjected to greater scrutiny before they are allowed to board a plane.
The prospect that DHS would not screen all air passengers against the full TSDB list of "known and reasonably suspected" terrorists sufficiently alarmed some in Congress that the fiscal 2008 DHS appropriation bill included language stating that if the TSA decided to screen people only against parts of the watch list, the assistant secretary in charge of TSA "shall certify to the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate and the House of Representatives that no significant security risks are raised by screening airline passenger names only against a subset of the full terrorist watch list."
The DHS inspector general's office conducted "fieldwork" on the question between March and September 2008, and in January 2009 published a report titled, "Role of the No Fly and Selectee Lists in Securing Commercial Aviation."
The report revealed that the No Fly and Selectee lists are designed to target only "specific categories" of terrorists. "In applying more narrow requirements than the TSDB's minimum substantive derogatory criteria requirements, the No Fly and Selectee lists are intended to prevent specific categories of terrorists from boarding commercial aircraft or subject these terrorists to secondary screening prior to boarding, and are not for use as law enforcement or intelligence gathering tools," said the report.
The Sept. 11 commission report, published in 2005, said, "The 'no fly' and 'automatic selectee' lists include only those individuals who the U.S. government believes pose a direct threat of attacking aviation." The commission recommended that TSA should take over screening of air passengers from the airlines and "should utilize the larger set of watchlists maintained by the federal government."
The IG analysis conceded that people not included on the "No Fly" and "Selectee" lists could "present vulnerabilities to aviation security," but concluded that screening and security actions taken by agencies other than TSA -- including the State Department, which screens foreign travelers applying for visas, and Customs and Border Protection, which screens travelers boarding international flights bound for the United States -- mitigated the risk.
"Although the use of No Fly and Selectee lists is largely successful in identifying potential terrorists who could threaten commercial aviation, some individuals not included on the lists may also present vulnerabilities to aviation security," said the IG report. "However, passenger prescreening against terrorist watch lists proposed by the Secure Flight program is only one component of a larger security cycle that protects the nation's commercial aviation system. International and domestic security activities within and outside the Department of Homeland Security, such as intelligence gathering, law enforcement investigations, visa issuance, and border protection, mitigate potential vulnerabilities not addressed by the Secure Flight program and enhance commercial aviation."
Gale D. Rossides, acting administrator of TSA, sent a memo to DHS IG Richard L. Skinner on March 17, 2009, indicating that her agency agreed with the conclusion of the IG's report.
"TSA appreciates the work OIG has done in this review and agrees with OIG's analysis and conclusions that the No Fly and Selectee Lists successfully identify terrorists who pose a threat to aviation security," the memo said. "TSA also agrees with OIG that other security measures address potential vulnerabilities not addressed by the Secure Flight program and that these security measures enhance aviation security."
A Homeland Security official told me on Tuesday that in 2008, in compliance with the language in DHS's fiscal 2008 appropriation, the department had certified to the congressional appropriations committees that no significant risks were raised by screening airline passengers against only part of the full terrorist watch list.
After the Swoon is over
How favorable will press coverage of President Obama be at the end of this year?
Jon Stewart's The Daily Show on Comedy Central is often a leading indicator of sentiment among younger voters. Stewart last month waxed sarcastic regarding not only Democratic spending and deficit-creation, but also about Obama's personal style of implying frankness and then serving up bromides.
Following one set of Obama video clips Stewart cried out, "C'mon—are these the people we've really been waiting for? This sounds like the people we got rid of." That realization that the Obama administration is politics as usual is important, since Obama won because voters thought he represented "change."
Maureen Dowd's New York Times column is often a leading indicator of sentiment among older liberal voters. She wrote recently, "The animating spirit that electrified his political movement has sputtered out. If we could see a Reduced Shakespeare summary of Obama's presidency so far, it would read: Dither, dither, speech. Foreign trip, bow, reassure. Seminar, summit. Shoot a jump shot with the guys, throw out the first pitch in mom jeans. Compromise, concede, close the deal. Dither, dither, water down, news conference."
Dowd may just be getting warmed up. In 2000, when taken to task for slamming Al Gore and thus hurting The Cause, she responded, "I was just teasing him a little bit because he was so earnest and he could be a little righteous and self-important." Hmm . . . does someone currently in the White House fit that description?
Washington's inner rings are starting to worry. One well-networked D.C. journalist, Elizabeth Drew, recently reported in Politico that those who once held "an unromantically high opinion of Obama" and were key to his rise are now concluding that the president isn't "the person of integrity and even classiness they had thought." She wrote that late last year "a critical mass of influential people who once held big hopes for his presidency began to wonder whether they had misjudged the man."
Glenn Reynolds, the internet's Instapundit, recently offered a perceptive summary: "I think Obama's 'charisma' was based on voter narcissism—people excited not just about electing a black president, but about themselves, voting for a black president. Now that's over, and they're stuck just with him, and emptied of their own narcissism there's not much there to fill out the suit."
Psalm 146 offers a warning: "Put not your trust in princes." Hundreds of journalists in 2008 and early in 2009 did just that. Tom Brokaw compared Obama's inauguration to the overthrow of Communism in 1989: "I was in Prague when that happened. . . . The streets were filled with joy." CBS Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez rhapsodized, "A new day is dawning here in the nation's capital. . . . Does it get any better, or more beautiful, or more spectacular, than this?"
Most major television networks were over-the-top propagandists. ABC's Bill Weir: "Can national pride make a freezing day feel warmer?. . . Never have so many people shivered so long with such joy. From above, even the seagulls must have been awed by the blanket of humanity." CNN's Carol Costello: "It was like you're standing in the middle of these strangers, and all of a sudden you had a million friends around you. That's what it felt like yesterday." Andrea Mitchell on NBC's Nightly News: "The mass flickering of cell phone cameras on the Mall seemed like stars shining back at him."
ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN are not as important as they used to be, but we also have less margin for error than we used to. A big problem, as Arthur Brooks says—see WORLD's interview, "The next 100 years," Jan. 16, 2009—is that at the end of this year almost half of Americans will pay no federal income tax. Brooks worries that many will say, "'You know what? This is pretty sweet. I kinda like this system because someone else is paying.' That's what one side is counting on actually happening."
Three questions for 2010: Will lots of non-payers refuse to sell their votes? Will lots of evangelicals who supported Obama in 2008, hoping that he would be above politics, see that he needs a Congress that will stand up to his politics? I believe so, but a third question is crucial: Will mainstream press cheerleaders stop dishonoring journalism?
Profile away: "In the wake of the ‘underwear bomber,’ why is it still politically incorrect to talk about profiling? The TSA makes all of us remove our shoes and surrender our shaving cream. Shouldn’t they also keep a profile of what potential terrorists do and aggressively screen people accordingly? Not just obvious things like screening people whose parents have reported them as possible terrorists (DUH.), but also people buying tickets with cash, buying one-way tickets, traveling with little/no luggage (oh, wait, the underwear terrorist did ALL of those things). … The anti-profiling people are usually worried that terrorist profiling will lead the TSA slippery slope to profiling based on skin color. But that hasn’t been the case with the Israeli airline, El-Al, which aggressively profiles for terrorism.”
United Airlines pilot (above) was drunk before flight from London: "A U.S. pilot is facing jail after admitting trying to fly his passenger jet from Heathrow while more than three times over the alcohol limit. Captain Erwin Washington, 51, was preparing to take a Boeing 767 with 124 passengers and 11 crew to Chicago when a colleague smelt alcohol on his breath. Police boarded the United Airlines plane and ordered him to take a breath test, which he failed. Yesterday, Washington pleaded guilty before Uxbridge magistrates to trying to pilot an aircraft while over the limit last November. The court heard Washington's breath test reading was 31 micrograms of alcohol per 100ml of breath - more than three times the limit for pilots of nine micrograms and the equivalent of half a pint of normal strength beer. Washington pleaded guilty today to performing an aviation function while exceeding the proscribed alcohol limit. The flight was cancelled on November 9 last year and passengers had to make alternative travel arrangements."
Recruits for 2010 put glee in GOP: "Conservative and Republican candidates who sat on the sidelines during the Democratic electoral surges of 2006 and 2008 are jumping into the 2010 midterm elections with renewed confidence after President Obama's first year in office. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, who heads the recruitment effort at the National Republican Congressional Committee, said he doesn't have to go looking for candidates anymore. He just has to answer the phone. "We've got people calling from all over the country, saying, 'I want to run.' People are concerned about the direction of the country," he said. "We've got doctors, farmers, business people — people from all walks of life." The class of new recruits, who run the gamut from legislative veterans hoping for comebacks to promising newcomers, has Republican officials eyeing significant gains in the House, Senate and governors' mansions after two disastrous election cycles. In Tennessee's conservative-leaning 8th Congressional District, for example, farmer and gospel singer Stephen Fincher climbed down from his tractor last year to run against 11-term Rep. John S. Tanner, a Democrat who abruptly announced his retirement plans in early December. The race is now considered wide open."
Atheist Rapist Claims Rights Violated After Sharing British Prison Cell With Christian Inmate: "An atheist rapist has complained that his human rights were breached by having to share a prison cell with a Christian inmate. Barman Steven Relf, 40, was jailed indefinitely after admitting raping two women he targeted when he served them drinks in a pub. Police branded him a "sexual predator" and said he could have had as many as 40 victims. In a letter to an inmates' magazine, Relf wrote: "I recently had the displeasure of sharing a cell with a Bible-thumping believer." A source said Relf was "furious" at having to share at Manchester Prison with the Christian convict and wanted him to be "evicted". He said: "He moaned about how the guy wouldn't shut up about God. He said he wanted to speak to a lawyer about his rights so he could be moved cells." The other inmate was later transferred."
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Posted by JR at 1:20 AM