Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano should make up her mind: did the system work or not? Following the failed terror attack aboard a Northwest Airlines Detroit-bound flight on Christmas day, Napolitano has changed her tune from: "Once the incident occurred, the system worked," to "Our system did not work in this instance." The real question is whether she actually believes the former declaration or the latter, and whether she's playing politics here. Either way, her behavior following Thursday's incident is disturbing.
The truth is, the system did fail, and miserably. And it's horrifying to imagine what would've happened had terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab succeeded with his plan to blow up the jetliner.
Given all we've learned since the 9/11 attacks, and the extensive security measures implemented since, several major questions remain unanswered: How does a suspected terrorist from Nigeria, a country with a growing terrorism problem, who was banned from Britain, somehow manage to get himself on a flight headed for a major U.S. city, with no secondary security screening, with a one-way ticket purchased with cash, with no checked baggage on an international flight, with an explosive substance taped to his leg, after being placed on a watchlist after his own father warned the State Department months ago of his son's increasing Muslim extremist radicalization? And how does this Nigerian terrorist manage to spend 20 minutes in the airplane's lavatory, as he prepared his failed explosive, without attracting the suspicion of flight crew?
To be sure, there is no consolation in Abdulmuttalab's botched skills as a terrorist. That he, like shoe-bomber Richard Reid, is inept shouldn't make us feel any safer. His near-success is a very chilling reminder of just how easy it apparently still is to cause mid-air devastation.
The U.S. government needs to rethink its national security apparatus and its intelligence-gathering mechanisms in combating terrorism. We cannot protect America from terrorism using military force. Fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan is a total waste of assets in this mission. We need more money and training for the CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security and other intelligence agencies. And the Transportation Security Administration needs to stop squandering precious time, money and overall resources at airports by pulling non-threatening individuals out of the X-ray line for secondary screening. The old, the sick and the stroller-bound little ones are not the monsters trying to kill Americans. With military intelligence precision and laser-like focus, we must expend all resources and assets on the real potential threats and stop pussy-footing around in politically-correctville.
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