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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What do increased efforts at security checkpoints matter when someone can just get on the plane at the gate?
Posted by Jill | 5:11 AM
This article to which I linked yesterday (and here's the link again) describes a witness who says that a "sharp-dressed man" accompanied Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab to the airport GATE, where he talked the GATE AGENT into letting Mutallab on the plane.

So my question is this: Did Mutallab even go through a security checkpoint at all? Did the "sharp-dressed man" have some kind of special clearance? With all the handwringing going on about airport security in the aftermath of the Christmas Day bombing attempt, is it possible that the checkpoint system didn't fall apart; but rather, that Mutallab somehow never even went through it; that he had some sort of "special dispensation"?

Dutch authorities are investigating:

American lawyer Kurt Haskell, who was standing in line with his wife Lori on Christmas morning at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, said Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was with a man aged about 50 of Indian appearance in an expensive suit talking with a ticket agent.

Mr Haskell claims that the second man told the ticket agent Abdulmutallab was from Sudan and did not have a passport. The ticket agent then referred the men to her manager down the hall, and Mr Haskell did not see the suspect against until after the failed bombing attempt.

Michael Lind today asks what the hell we're paying the government for:

Whether under Republicans or Democrats, whether the threat is Hurricane Katrina or Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, America seems to be facing a general crisis of state incapacity. Money can be found by Democratic and Republican administrations alike to bail out campaign contributors on Wall Street, but not to repair our crumbling infrastructure.

The U.S. fought and won World War II in less time than it took to adequately protect U.S. soldiers against primitive weapons in Iraq. We are told that we have to stay in Iraq and Afghanistan indefinitely, because withdrawing would be admitting failure. Translation: We haven't won and are unlikely to win in the foreseeable future, if ever.

And now the narrowly averted Christmas massacre in the skies above Detroit. I don't think I'm overreacting when I say that if ever overreaction on the part of a citizenry has been justified, it is now. We the people deserve to be angry. It's not as though Abdulmutallab came up with a clever new tactic while our national security agencies were focused on the last tactic. He used more or less the same tactic as the "shoe bomber," Richard Reid, and nevertheless got through every layer of international and national security.

It's almost as though Osama bin Laden had been allowed through screening at Boston Logan, used a box cutter to hijack a jet, and would have crashed it but for the heroic intervention of other passengers defending themselves after their government failed to defend them.

Forget Democrats and Republicans for a minute. Every American should be asking the same questions: Why are we paying these people?

Our elected leaders and public servants can't do the hard stuff, and they can't do the easy stuff either. They can't provide universal, affordable healthcare, of the kind that all other advanced industrial societies have. They can't give us a system of banking that channels money from depositors to productive enterprises in our country, without being channeled into gambling with obscene profits skimmed off for the gambler-bankers. They can't win wars or avoid unwinnable ones. They can't even repair bridges and keep levees in operating condition, tasks mastered by the relatively primitive ancient Romans and ancient Chinese.

And now, after two invasions justified in the name of the "war on terror," the creation of a cumbersome Homeland Security bureaucracy and a Patriot Act, and countless studies, reports and hearings, it turns out that we Americans may have to defend ourselves against jihadists. First we were told ad nauseam that it was our job to identify possible terrorists in airports and bus terminals and train stations. What next? "Passengers are advised to be prepared to throw themselves if necessary on the flaming traveler next to them in the aircraft, in order to prevent a bomb from detonating. Please watch the demonstration by the flight attendants."

The reality as well as the perception of government incapacity threatens liberalism more than conservatism. After all, if public safety deteriorates, antisocial plutocrats can retreat into doormanned buildings and gated communities and hire their own private security forces, and rural conservatives can amass home arsenals. And if the costs of personal security reduce the room for taxes for public goods, well, then, so much the better, from the perspective of certain strains of anti-government conservatism.

In contrast, America's modest and inadequate system of social democracy rests on economic growth made possible by effective government provision of basic public goods. Economic growth in turn rests on physical security — the protection of citizens against criminals in their midst and hostile or law-breaking foreigners. Libertarians to the contrary, the indispensable preconditions for the free society are effective armed forces and police forces, be they citizen militias or professionals.

It's all well and good to look at airport security checkpoints, but it's beginning to sound as if Mutallab had one heck of a lot of help getting on that plane; help that may not even have involved lapses in airport security. But Lind's article is interesting in that it posits a world in which government is ineffective and we end up with paramilitary forces and gun nuts -- exactly the kind of world that Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, the teabaggers, and Dick Cheney regard as their utopian vision.

As I said last night, my tinfoil is tingling. Stay tuned.

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Blogger Interrobang said...
Holy crap, I'm tired of this:

The US didn't "win" WWII; the US sold materiel to both sides until it was politically impossible for them to remain neutral any longer (and, before Pearl Harbor, there was a fairly justified suspicion among industrialists and financiers in Germany that the US would would finally enter the war on the Axis side), and only managed to seem like they'd "won" because they were the only country left standing after the dust had cleared, mostly because per capita, they sacrificed a lot less blood and treasure than everyone else. Some outrageous percentage of the USSR's population died either directly or as a result of WWII; if any country made the crucial difference, it was probably them. The Axis, frankly, was running out of natural resources by the end of the war, and the Eastern Front was a good portion of the reason why.

Japan's military strategy was largely self-defeating in the late going, especially in terms of how long it took them to train personnel versus the number of suicide weapons they had, and the corresponding skill depletion. I'm fairly strongly of the opinion that nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki was literal and figurative overkill...

Anonymous mandt said...
"the US sold materiel to both sides until it was politically impossible for them to remain neutral any longer" Exactly so, the Bush dynasty made big bucks laundering confiscated Jewish funds, sold arms to the Soviets and Hitler. And, oh did I mention attempted a coupe against FDR?