Category Archive 'Flight 253'
24 Feb 2010

Pope Criticizes Full Body Scanners

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Jean-Léon Gérôme, Next Year at Airline Security, 1867, private collection.

I was appalled by the reactions of my classmates to news that the officialdom was responding internationally to the failed Christmas Eve underwear bombing by adding electronic strip searches to the pointless forms of harassment and humiliation inflicted on ordinary citizens of Western countries, in order to avoid singling out for special attention exotic representatives of the backward and benighted regions of Barbaria where the teachings of Mahound commonly inspire fanatical intolerance and a lust for blood.

There were all kinds of crude jokes about how trivial issues of personal modesty are by comparison to safety, and how happy they all would be to stripped completely naked in mixed company in order to avoid injury or death. This from a bunch of men over 60, who in general, doubtless, have plenty of reason for personal objection.

I thought myself that this particular measure represented a particularly apt metonymy for a number of the objectionable aspects of the contemporary liberal perspective: the eager submission and thoroughgoing surrender of everything, including personal dignity and privacy, to official authority; the elevation of egalitarianism to a position of absolute supremacy over any and every other value; cowardice and materialism; and limitless obeisance to the Other, combined with a complete disregard for either female modesty or human dignity.

The Telegraph reports that at least one modern leader actually is on the record objecting to the new full body scanners.

The Pope made his comments during an audience with airport workers held at the Vatican.

Although the Pontiff did not mention the words body scanner it was clear what he meant as he told the 1,200 strong crowd: “Every action, it is above all essential to protect and value the human person in their integrity.

“Respecting these principles can seem particularly complex and difficult in the present context.

“The economic crisis has had problematic effects on the civil aviation sector, the international terrorist threat which, precisely, has in its line of fire airports and aircraft to realise its destructive schemes.

“Even in this situation, one must never forget that respecting the primacy of the human person and attention to his or her needs does not make the service less efficient nor penalise economic management.”

25 Jan 2010

Who Mishandled Abdulmutallab?

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George Smiley notes ironically that the Massachusetts special election did the Obama Administration one big favor. It soaked up all the news coverage, preventing anyone paying attention to some very damaging congressional testimony by Admiral Dennis Blair.

Appearing before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair admitted that intel officials bungled the handling of Farouk Abdulmutallab, the underwear bomber who tried to bring down a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day.

Specifically, Mr. Blair told the committee that Abdulmutallab should have been interrogated by a special team that handles high value targets. But the spooks never got a crack at the Nigerian suspect. As Blair told Congress, he was never consulted about how the suspect should be handled.

Indeed, the nation’s intel apparatus was apparently out of the loop as the FBI decided to treat the would-be bomber as they would a criminal. Mr. Blair’s lieutenants were out of the loop as well. Then, after less than an hour of questioning, Abdulmutallab was read his Miranda rights and provided with legal counsel. At that point, he stopped cooperating with authorities, leaving key questions unanswered.

And, it gets worse. Remember that team that’s supposed to interrogate high-value suspects? It was hailed as a key element of Mr. Obama’s plan (unveiled last year) to end the “torture” of terror detainees and shut down the facility at Guantanamo Bay. But as Blair informed the Homeland Security panel, that highly-touted team has never been formed.

For his candor, Blair is in trouble with Congressional Republicans–and the White House. According to Newsweek’s “Declassified” blog, administration officials have described the DNI (a retired Navy admiral) as “misinformed,” and have ordered him to correct his remarks. Sure enough, Blair released a statement only an hour later, claiming that his comments were “misconstrued.”

In other words, Admiral Blair is feeling the heat for telling the truth. The nation’s intelligence chief was never consulted in the aftermath of an attempted terrorist attack that could have destroyed an airliner and killed hundreds of passengers. He also claims that the (limited) FBI interrogation provided important information, although you’ve got to wonder just how much Abdulmutallab divulged in hour before FBI agents advised him of his “rights.”

There’s also the troubling matter of why the High-Value Interrogation Group (or HIG as it’s known) still isn’t in operation. Months after the President ordered its creation, attorneys are still devising a charter for the group, suggesting that it is months away from achieving operational status. Until then, who’s in charge of interrogating suspected terrorists? After being pilloried by politicians and the press, both the CIA and the military have grown skittish; we’re guessing that most of the questioning will be conducted by the FBI, until the HIG–staffed by experts from intelligence and law enforcement–becomes operational.

Blair’s disturbing admissions also raise another question, namely, who made the call to treat Farouk Abdulmutallab as a criminal suspect, rather than an accused terrorist? The administration claims the decision was made by agents from the FBI’s Detroit field office, who met the plane when it landed. But that sounds a bit suspect. Would you, as a Special Agent in Charge be willing to stake your career on the handling of a suspected terrorist–a decision you made without consulting your superiors in Washington?

There’s little doubt that senior FBI officials (and probably, Attorney General Eric Holder) were alerted when Abdulmutallab was removed from that Northwest flight. And the decision to “Mirandize” was likely made by high-ranking officials at the bureau, if not Mr. Holder himself.

10 Jan 2010

And Then the Singing Stopped…

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The Roosevelt Administration did not send Nazi saboteurs landed in Long Island during WWII over to Foley Square for civilian prosecution. It gave them a secret military trial and then executed 8 out of 10. The other two got lesser sentences (which were ultimately commuted after the war) in exchange for cooperation.

The Telegraph reports that once Farouk Abdulmutallab was lawyered up, we lost a potentially extremely useful intelligence source.

President Barack Obama is under fire over claims that the Christmas Day underwear bomber was “singing like a canary” until he was treated as an ordinary criminal and advised of his right to silence.

The chance to secure crucial information about al-Qaeda operations in Yemen was lost because the Obama administration decided to charge and prosecute Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as an ordinary criminal, critics say. He is said to have reduced his co-operation with FBI interrogators on the advice of his government-appointed defence counsel.

The potential significance became chillingly clear this weekend when it was reported that shortly after his detention, he boasted that 20 more young Muslim men were being prepared for similar murderous missions in the Yemen.

And that’s why putting National Defense in the hands of ultra-liberal idealogues like Barack Obama and Eric Holder holds the potential for disaster.

The Supreme Court held in Ex Parte Quirin:

…the law of war draws a distinction between the armed forces and the peaceful populations of belligerent nations and also between those who are lawful and unlawful combatants. Lawful combatants are subject to capture and detention as prisoners of war by opposing military forces. Unlawful combatants are likewise subject to capture and detention, but in addition they are subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals for acts which render their belligerency unlawful. The spy who secretly and without uniform passes the military lines of a belligerent in time of war, seeking to gather military information and communicate it to the enemy, or an enemy combatant who without uniform comes secretly through the lines for the purpose of waging war by destruction of life or property, are familiar examples of belligerents who are generally deemed not to be entitled to the status of prisoners of war, but to be offenders against the law of war subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals.

07 Jan 2010

“A Certain Shock”

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TSA on the job protecting America from terrorism.

USA Today:

White House national security adviser James Jones says Americans will feel “a certain shock” when they read an account being released Thursday of the missed clues that could have prevented the alleged Christmas Day bomber from ever boarding the plane.

And, as predicted, we learn that the system delivered vital information too late to be scrutinized until the person of interest to security was already on the plane and in the air. He should have been on one of two lists provoking greater scrutiny or prohibiting him from flying altogether, but….

LA Times:

U.S. border security officials learned of the alleged extremist links of the suspect in the Christmas Day jetliner bombing attempt as he was airborne from Amsterdam to Detroit and had decided to question him when he landed, officials disclosed Wednesday. …

“The public isn’t aware how many people are allowed to travel through the U.S., who are linked, who intersect with bad guys or alleged bad guys,” a national security official said. “It makes sense from an intelligence perspective. If they are not considered dangerous, it provides intelligence on where they go, who they meet with.”

Moreover, the window for identifying a passenger overseas as a potential threat is limited, a senior homeland security official said.

U.S. border enforcement officials have access to passenger data based on lists of those who have made flight reservations. But the in-depth vetting only begins once a comprehensive list, known as a flight manifest, has been generated, just a few hours before takeoff, the homeland security official said.

Customs and Border Protection personnel based at the National Targeting Center in Washington came across the intelligence about Abdulmutallab — which was based on a tip from the suspect’s father to U.S. Embassy officials in Nigeria — during an in-depth review of the manifest after the plane was en route to Detroit, the other law enforcement officials said. …

(T)he likelihood of Abdulmutallab being intercepted in Amsterdam was low because he was not on the no-fly list, which contains about 4,000 names, or a separate terrorism watch “selectee” list that contains fewer than 20,000 names. Instead, the Nigerian was on the larger database.

The real breakdown came months before the flight because intelligence officials failed to match the father’s tip with intercepts about a suspected plot involving a Nigerian, a former senior homeland security official said.

“There was enough information in the system to make the guy a selectee or a no-fly without hoping for Customs and Border Protection to detect it at the last minute,” the official said.

06 Jan 2010

Andrew Sullivan’s Reader Analyzes Jihadi Intentions

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Excitable Andrew Sullivan quotes an email he received from one of his readers, which I think represents a classic example of liberal analysis.

It is quite possible (in fact I think probable) that the people who planned this event, and used the young man from Nigeria as a tool, were aware that due to security measures in place, there was no way they could actually get a bomb through that would actually work. The detonation equipment needed would have been detected. The same applies, by the way, to the shoe bomber.

Again, think about it. If you wanted to blow up a plane, would you attempt it from your seat, where somebody could quite possibly stop you? No, you would go to the washroom where you could set off the bomb without disruption.

Of course, if it failed to go off, then people wouldn’t necessarily know what you were trying to do. Therefore you have to make sure it is one in the open, or the very failure is perceived as a terrorist attack. The fear result is the same whether or not the bomb goes off.

In addition to the torture lovers advocating a return to waterboarding, the administration sets up more stringent guidelines for air travel (most of which are unlikely to be effective at all) and other people call for the resignation of the head of DHS. In other words, the response is what al Qaeda and other terrorist groups want.

Al Qaeda has lost a lot of its prestige and influence in the Muslim world. They need something to get it back. How better than to do something that creates a reaction on the part of the US or Great Britain that shows just how bad we are and how we are so anti-Islam.



In ABC video of federal test, 50 gr. of PETN destroys airliner

For liberals, a well-formed argument is everything. Facts are fungible and analysis constitutes simply a matter of choosing the propositions necessary for one’s argument work. Analysis is a lot like Interior Decorating.

It becomes easy to deride Western counter-terrorist efforts, if one argues that Al Qaeda can’t really smuggle a bomb that would actually work onto a plane in someone’s shoes or underwear. The jihadis knew all along those bombing attempts would never work. They just intended to win tons of publicity, frighten Western officials into making air travel even more miserable, and panic us into picking on innocent Muslims.

Except as the government test shown in this 2:57 ABC video demonstrated Richard Reid’s 50 gr. PETN shoe bomb could have blown an airliner into pieces very nicely. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was carrying 80 grams.

Additionally, we know that the attempted bombing of Flight 253 was part of a suicide bombing campaign begin last August when a suicide bomber using the same kind of infernal device concealed in his underwear successfully did detonate a bomb which wounded, but failed to kill, Saudi Counterterrorism chief Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

Clever reasoning. Unfortunately, yes, Andrew, these kinds of bombs can be successfully exploded. The failures of Richard Reid the shoe bomber and the Flight 253 underwear bomber were the result of good luck and happenstance.

03 Jan 2010

FOB Chapman Suicide Bombing Linked to Failed Saudi Assassination and Flight 253

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A suicide bombing assassination attempt last August on the life of the Saudi chief of Counter-terrorism Operations, Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, Debka sources reveal, was the opening move in a new al Qaeda terrorism offensive, and served as a tactical example both for the failed bombing of Flight 253 and for the successful suicide attack responsible for the deaths of seven CIA officers at Forward Operating Base Chapman on December 30th.

Debkafile
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Had the White House National Security Council, US intelligence and counter-terror agencies properly studied al Qaeda’s failed attempt to assassinate Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, deputy interior minister and commander of the Saudi anti-terror campaign in Yemen five motnhs ago, they might have detected pointers to al Qaeda’s latest terror offensive and its methods.

Like the Nigerian bomber Umar Abdulmutallab, the Saudi minister’s would-be assassin, Abdullah Hassan Tali’ al-Asiri (al Qaeda-styled Abu Khair), who did not survive the attack, used explosives hidden in his underwear to fool the prince’s bodyguards. He won an audience with the prince by posing as an informant, the same trick used by the Taliban suicide bomber to penetrate a US base and kill 7 CIA agents and a US soldier last month.

This emerging prototype was missed by US intelligence experts. …

Obama, who has called a meeting of US security agency chiefs for Tuesday, Jan. 5, cannot expect serious brainstorming because it would be inhibited by a mindset that refuses to refer to the failed mass-murderer as an illegal or enemy combatant or terrorist but only as a “suspect.” Treated like a common or garden criminal, the Nigerian has been committed to an ordinary lock-up. This has given him the opportunity to hire American lawyers, who right away shut his mouth and advised him not to cooperate in answering questions about his accessories and masters.

With this invaluable intelligence door closed, the US president has turned to measures for enhancing the security of US air travelers and air traffic bound for US ports and demanded the matching-up of the counter-terror watch and no-fly lists. Abdulmutallab appeared on the first but was left off the second as a result of the failure of US intelligence agencies to share incoming data about his record.

Furthermore, should Obama and his advisers decide on retaliation, DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources are assured by reports from Yemen that al Qaeda’s operatives were no longer hanging around their bases twelve days after the airliner episode; they had packed up and made tracks for fresh hideouts in the northern mountains and Hadhramaut.

Since Obama’s Monday, Dec. 23 pledge: “We will not rest until we find all who were involved,” the days slipping by without a US reaction have given al Qaeda the chance to plot more airliner attacks from a safe location.

The second breach in US defenses against terrorist attack has deeper roots and derives from the misconceptions about al Qaeda governing US intelligence thinking well before Barack Obama’s day in the White House.

Prince Muhammad in Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s top counter-terror executive, escaped with light injuries from Abu Khair’s attempt to kill him at his Jeddah palace on August 27, 2009, thanks mainly to the partial detonation of the explosive materials hidden in his underpants, a glitch repeated in the Nigerian bomber’s attempt.

The assassin gained entry to the most heavily fortified and guarded palace in the Red Sea town of Jeddah by convincing Saudi agents in Yemen that he was ready to switch sides – but only if he could discuss terms face to face with Prince Muhammad.

They did in fact hold several meetings – not in the palace but out in Najran province on the Yemen border. The data he handed over was solid enough to convince the Saudi prince that he was on the threshold of his government’s biggest breakthrough in its war on al Qaeda.

So when Abu Khair offered to bring with him to the Jeddah palace a list of al Qaeda high-ups in Yemen willing to defect to Saudi Arabia, the prince not only agreed to the venue but sent his private jet to pick him up from Najran.

Our counter-terror sources allow that the government in Riyadh may have kept the details of this plot from the Americans – and not for the first time. Still, CIA and FBI undercover agents in the oil kingdom could have got wind of it from their own contacts.

Had it been properly scrutinized and analyzed, there was much valuable input to be gained from the attempt on Prince Muhammad, betraying as it did Al Qaeda methods which were later replicated in the attempted bombing of the Detroit-bound airliner and, again, in the deadly attack on Dec. 30 against the CIA contingent at Forward Operation Base Chapman, in the remote Afghan Khost province.

The bomber, who has not been identified yet, not only gained entry with explosives in his possession to the well-guarded US base, but detonated the device while the agents were unarmed and working out in the base gym.

How was this accomplished? The bomber had in fact been employed as a CIA informer and was therefore known at the gate and familiar with the routines of Base Chapman. Furthermore, he knew enough to time his attack for the day of the arrival in Kabul of a high-ranking CIA official. There has been no word about this official’s fate.

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And, in Newsweek, Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball are reporting that Prince Muhammad bin Nayef briefed the White House in October about al Qaeda’s new explosive undergarments.

White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan was briefed in October on an assassination attempt by Al Qaeda that investigators now believe used the same underwear bombing technique as the Nigerian suspect who tried to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day, U.S. intelligence and administration officials tell NEWSWEEK.

The briefing to Brennan was delivered at the White House by Muhammad bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s chief counterterrorism official. …

U.S. officials now suspect that Nayef’s attempted assassin and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian suspect aboard the Northwest flight, had the same bomb maker in Yemen.

02 Jan 2010

“Different Attitude, Different Results”

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Eric Holder and Barack Obama

A.J. Strata argues that it was not just random luck that nobody did anything to stop Major Hasan before the Fort Hood massacre and not just one of those things that Abdulmutallab was given a US visa and never promoted to the no-fly list, counter-terrorism effort has been slackened by the current administration and liberal pieties prioritized above saving American lives.

This new, liberal leaning administration took the high tempo of a heated war against a dangerous, evil enemy and turned into a cautious criminal investigation of ‘extremists’ who cause ‘man made disasters’. This change had consequences – intended and otherwise. War means ‘whatever it takes’, crime investigation is slow and cautious and shrouded in personal protections for the ‘accused’.

They also legally threatened those who were tirelessly defending this nation 24×7. Where people were once willing (and rewarded) to go the extra mile, make personal sacrifices, spend the extra time to ensure a lead was not the next 9-11, the new administration deflated that drive and made our defenders more concerned with their own security than national security. …

We have growing evidence Team Obama made changes in our national security posture which could easily have resulted in the Nigerian bomber getting through our defenses. First from a career State Department source:

    This employee says that despite statements from the Obama Administration, such information was flagged and given higher priority during the Bush Administration, but that since the changeover “we are encouraged to not create the appearance that we are profiling or targeting Muslims.

And then there were these massive organizational changes to a system that was protecting us:

    Obama fundamentally altered the culture and risk-taking incentives of the intelligence community with policy and personnel changes. The sense of urgency is gone, and he’s made it uncool to call the war on terror a war at all. If he wants to treat terrorism like a criminal act, rather than an act of war, we should not be surprised when the results look a lot like the bureaucratic foul-ups that happen all the time in law enforcement. He gutted the Homeland Security Council coordinating role, he diluted the focus of the daily intel brief, he made CIA officials worry more about being prosecuted for doing their jobs than capturing terrorists. … He’s made it his business to turn much of the national security apparatus set up by Bush and Cheney upside down and has succeeded …

Richard Clarke was a thorn in the side of President Bush for years after 9-11. He was in the Clinton Administration on the National Security Council. He is also quite accurate in his assessment of what happened inside the Obama Administration that led to these incidents (Ft Hood Massacre and Flight 253):

    “It points to something fundamental,” said Richard A. Clarke, a former top counter-terrorism official in the Bush and Clinton administrations. “No matter how good your software is or how good your procedures are, at the end of the day it comes back to people. And if people think that this is a 9-5 job and they’re not filled with a sense of urgency every day, then you’ll get these kinds of mistakes.”

That is the distinction between fighting a war and the job of investigating crime. That is the difference between being rewarded for extra effort instead of scrutinized and threatened for it. Same tools, different attitude. Are we surprised in the different results?

31 Dec 2009

Whole-Body Imaging Scanners Will Not Work

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Don’t even bother with the farce of installing those extremely expensive whole-body imaging scanners. Al Qaeda has already tested them and figured out how to defeat them.

Radio Nederlands Wereldomroep:

A body scanner at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport would not necessarily have detected the explosives which the would-be syringe bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had sewn into his underwear. A Dutch military intelligence source told De Telegraaf newspaper that Al Qaeda has its own security scanners and has been practicing ways of concealing explosives.

The terrorist group has even carried out test runs at smuggling explosives through European airports, the paper reports.

29 Dec 2009

In Aftermath of Flight 253, Government Steps Up Security

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Provoking this sensible comment from Jared C. Lobdell.

Recite after me: “The Christmas Day terrorist was subdued by other passengers who left their seats: this was during the approach to the plane’s destination, less than an hour to go in the international flight. Therefore, the TSA now prohibits passengers from leaving their seats during the last hour of an international flight.”

29 Dec 2009

They Learned to Make Exploding Underwear in Art Therapy

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Said Ali al-Shihri aka Sa’id Ali Jabir Al Khathim Al Shihri aka Abu Sayyaf al-Shihr aka Saeed al Shehri aka Said Ali Shari

ABC News reveals that two of the principals behind the failed bombing of Flight 253 were former Guanatanamo detainees, released in the later period of the Bush Administration when that Administration began to buckle under intensive criticism of unlimited detention.

The more prominent released prisoner, Said Ali al-Shihri, was a Saudi al Qaeda travel facilitator, captured with wounds in the leg in Pakistan in the aftermath of the US invasion of Afghanistan, believed to have trained at a Libyan camp north of Kabul.

Since his release, he has been involved in the kidnap-murder of Christian missionary aid workers and the bombing of the US embassy in Yemen.

And a hearty hand of applause for all the counsel and amicus filers in Boumediene v. Bush who started the legal processes leading to the release of these unfortunate victims of American injustice.

Two of the four leaders allegedly behind the al Qaeda plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet over Detroit were released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November, 2007, according to American officials and Department of Defense documents. …

American officials agreed to send the two terrorists from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia where they entered into an “art therapy rehabilitation program” and were set free, according to U.S. and Saudi officials.

Guantanamo prisoner #333, Muhamad Attik al-Harbi, and prisoner #372, Said Ali Shari, were sent to Saudi Arabia on Nov. 9, 2007, according to the Defense Department log of detainees who were released from American custody. Al-Harbi has since changed his name to Muhamad al-Awfi.

29 Dec 2009

Underwear Bomb Pictures Released

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Abdulmutallab was concealing a 6″ container of PETN in the crotch of this underwear

As this 2:57 ABC video shows, the quantity of explosive was more than sufficient to destroy an airliner.

All this provokes reflection. They are using underwear to hide bombs, concealing high explosive compounds next to their genitals. What is the government going to do now? Will millions of air travelers be stripped naked electronically or literally?

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Jeff Goldberg, in the Atlantic, discussed airline security policies with Bruce Schneier:

Counter­terrorism in the airport is a show designed to make people feel better,” [Schneier] said. “Only two things have made flying safer: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers.” This assumes, of course, that al-Qaeda will target airplanes for hijacking, or target aviation at all. “We defend against what the terrorists did last week,” Schnei­er said. He believes that the country would be just as safe as it is today if airport security were rolled back to pre-9/11 levels. “Spend the rest of your money on intelligence, investigations, and emergency response.”

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If we were smarter, we’d pay more attention to the Israeli example.

The safest airline in the world, it is widely agreed, is El Al, Israel’s national carrier. The safest airport is Ben Gurion International, in Tel Aviv. No El Al plane has been attacked by terrorists in more than three decades, and no flight leaving Ben Gurion has ever been hijacked. So when US aviation intensified its focus on security after 9/11, it seemed a good bet that the experience of travelers in American airports would increasingly come to resemble that of travelers flying out of Tel Aviv.

But in telling ways, the two experiences remain notably different. For example, passengers in the United States are required to take off their shoes for X-ray screening, while passengers at Ben Gurion are spared that indignity. …

Nearly five years after Sept. 11, 2001, US airport security remains obstinately focused on intercepting bad things — guns, knives, explosives. …

Of course the Israelis check for bombs and weapons too, but always with the understanding that things don’t hijack planes, terrorists do — and that the best way to detect terrorists is to focus on intercepting not bad things, but bad people.

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Wikipedia describes Israeli El Al’s security procedures:

Passengers are asked to report three hours before departure. All El Al terminals around the world are closely monitored for security. There are plain-clothes agents and fully armed police or military personnel who patrol the premises for explosives, suspicious behavior, and other threats. Inside the terminal, passengers and their baggage are checked by a trained team. El Al security procedures require that all passengers be interviewed individually prior to boarding, allowing El Al staff to identify possible security threats. Passengers will be asked questions about where they are coming from, the reason for their trip, their job or occupation, and whether they have packed their bags themselves. The likelihood of potential terrorists remaining calm under such questioning is believed to be low (see microexpression). At the check-in counter the passengers’ passports and tickets are closely examined. A ticket without a sticker from the security checkers will not be accepted. At passport control passengers’ names are checked against information from the FBI, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Scotland Yard, Shin Bet, and Interpol databases. Luggage is screened and sometimes hand searched. In addition, bags are put through a decompression chamber simulating pressures during flight that could trigger explosives. El Al is the only airline in the world that passes all luggage through such a chamber. Even at overseas airports, El Al security agents conduct all luggage searches personally, even if they are supervised by government or private security firms. …

Critics of El Al note that its security checks on passengers include racial profiling and have argued that such profiling is unfair, irrational, and degrading to those subject to such screening.

28 Dec 2009

Then Again

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Looking like a deer in the headlights…

It seems the traveling public may not be “very very safe” after all, and the system didn’t really work. What do you know?

Janet Napolitano denied eating her words today on MBC’s Today show. No, it was CNN, you see, which took her out of context (!).

3:43 video

What a weasel she is.

28 Dec 2009

Janet Napolitano: “The Traveling Public is Very Very Safe”

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Janet Napolitano

Department of Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano assures CNN that “the system worked.”

She announces with a note of assured complacency that “right now, we have no indication it was part of anything larger”.

“We have initiated more screening and what we call mitigation measures at.. uh… airports.”

“I would advise you, during this heavy holiday season, (voice sweetens) just to arrive a bit early.”

“The traveling public is very very safe in this air environment.”

In response to Candy Crowley inquiring why even a father’s report that his son had ties to terrorists and might be dangerous was not enough to move him onto the no-fly list, Janet Napolitano responded: “You need information that is specific and credible if you are going to bar someone from air travel.”

The directrex of Homeland Security’s performance was reminding me of someone, and after a minute it came to me who it was. Napolitano’s reassurances sound exactly like those of 1970s era Mayor of Amity, Larry Vaughn.

Janet Napolitano 6:06 video

Larry Vaughn 4:01 video

Andrew Sullivan awarded her a “Heckuva Job, Janet” column.

The head of DHS had the gall to say that “the system worked.” What she meant is that after the incident in Detroit, the response was good. Fine. But she has no assurance that this could not happen again, and even declared that the would-be terrorist was properly screened.

More to the point, she evinces no sense of responsibility for this lapse in security. I’m sorry but that’s her job and instead of preening about how she handled it after the fact, she should be apologizing for yet another instance of government incompetence and complacency. She is stonewalling and smug.

Really: disgraceful, glib, complacent, moronic. I want to know who is being fired for not taking the warning about this one seriously enough, and if Napolitano really believes that a near-miss, averted by the terrorist’s incompetence and the passengers’ courage, is a sign that the system is working, then she needs to be fired as well.

Even Andrew is dead right every now and then.

28 Dec 2009

Flight 253 Security Failure Will Lead to What?

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Full nudity and body cavity searches for every airline traveler, while Western security agencies continue to refuse to offend political correctness by profiling Muslims and Middle Easterners?

The Telegraph observes that al Qaeda has identified the last unsearched regions of the human anatomy as providing an expoitable opportunity to smuggle small quantities of high explosives on board airliners. They obviously are not going to stop trying.

The fact that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was able to trigger his home-made incendiary device on board a US airliner represents an intelligence and security failure of staggering proportions.

How can a Muslim student, whose name appears on a US law enforcement database, be granted a visa to travel to America, allegedly acquire an explosive device from Yemen, a country awash with al-Qaeda terrorists, and avoid detection from the world’s most sophisticated spy agencies?

Every intelligence agency across the world is fully aware that the targets of choice for al-Qaeda and its numerous affiliates and sympathisers are airliners – preferably those flying to the US. Yet Abdulmutallab seems to have avoided detection in both Nigeria and Holland when he passed through the various security checks at Lagos and Schiphol airports respectively.

Embarrassingly for the Washington, Lagos airport had recently been given the “all clear” by the US’s Transportation Security Administration, an agency established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks which was supposed to improve the security on American airliners. …

The simplicity of the latest plot – another al-Qaeda hallmark – could also lead to changes into the way passengers are body searched in the future.

Reports suggest that Abdulmutallab was able to carry the powdery substance undetected by concealing it on the inside of his upper thigh, close to his groin – an area likely to avoid detection even by the most conscientious of security officials. It would appear that he was allowed to take a syringe containing a liquid on board the aircraft by apparently taking advantage of airlines’ policy of allowing diabetics to inject themselves during flight. Changes of some sort to passenger travel would seem to be a certainty.

British Airways has already announced that hand baggage has been reduced to one item following the attack.

Whether Abdulmutallab was directed by al-Qaeda – as he initially claimed to US investigators but later denied – or whether his connections were more “aspirational” remains to be seen.

But what this incident demonstrates is that despite all the improvements in security since 9/11, determined terrorists can and will continue to mount terrorists attacks against western targets – and one day they will succeed.

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The (British) Sun (a somewhat sensationalist tabloid) is reporting having received an official leak indicating that the attempted bombing of Flight 253 is just the first of a series of planned attacks.

25 British-born Muslims are plotting to bomb Western airliners.

The fanatics, in five groups, are now training at secret terror camps in Yemen.

The British extremists in Yemen are in their early 20s and from Bradford, Luton and Leytonstone, East London.

They are due to return to the UK early in 2010 and will then await internet instructions from al-Qaeda on when to strike.

A Scotland Yard source said: “The great fear is Abdulmutallab is the first of many ready to attack planes and kill tens of thousands.

“We know there are four or five radicalised British Muslim cells in the Yemen.

“They are due back within months when they will be under constant surveillance.”

The 25 suspects, of Pakistani and Somali descent, were radicalised in UK mosques.

Some had been to university and studied engineering or computer sciences.

Others were former street gang members.

Monitored

Special Branch monitored them as they flew to Yemen, in the Middle East, from British airports in the spring and summer.

In almost every case, their tickets were paid for in cash and bought less than a week before travel.

The source added: “Imams would have promised them rewards in heaven for becoming suicide bombers prepared to kill Westerners.

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