Free Markets, Free People

NWA Bomber A Result Of”Systemic Failure” And “Systemic Looting”?

President Obama said the attempted Northwest Airlines bombing was the result of a “systemic failure – an outright rebuke of Janet Napalitano’s “the system worked” remark. Almost 9 years after 9/11, we’re still having trouble seeing the “dots” much less connecting them. Everyone who should have known about this guy seems to have known about him yet he was issued a visa, allowed on an airplane to the US and almost killed over 200 people despite being on a watch list and having been reported as a potential terrorist by his father.

So yes, I’d agree with the “systemic failure” characterization. It sounds like there were plenty of dots and again no connecting. For instance, if he’s on a watch list, why is our State Department issuing him a visa? Shouldn’t they a) have checked that watch list or b) routinely run his name by the CIA and/or whoever maintains that watch list? Why have a watch list if no one is watching?

But, over and above that, you have to ask “why” after spending billions upon billions on aviation security wasn’t a fairly common explosive easily detected by bomb detection equipment detected by said bomb detecting equipment? After all, even if the CIA and State Department fumble the ball, couldn’t it be picked up technologically by the “system” at the airports designed to detect bombs?

Well, that brings us to the looting part of the title. Ask Sen. Chris Dodd where the money for that sort of equipment went. Apparently he managed to divert it to one of his pet projects which he figured had a higher priority than that of the lives of airline passengers. Here is the text of the amendment he introduced and was passed diverting funds for aviation security bomb detecting equipment to what the Washington Examiner calls a “notoriously ineffective program”:

Purpose: To provide additional funds for FIRE grants under section 33 of the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974)

On page 77, between lines 16 and 17, insert the following:

SEC. X (a) The amount appropriated under the heading “firefighter assistance grants” under the heading “Federal Emergency Management Agency” under by title III for necessary expenses for programs authorized by the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974 is increased by $10,000,000 for necessary expenses to carry out the programs authorized under section 33 of that Act (15 U.S.C. 2229).

(b) The total amount of appropriations under the heading “Aviation Security” under the heading “Transportation Security Administration” under title II, the amount for screening operations and the amount for explosives detection systems under the first proviso under that heading, and the amount for the purchase and installation of explosives detection systems under the second proviso under that heading are reduced by $4,500,000.

(c) From the unobligated balances of amounts appropriated before the date of enactment of this Act for the appropriations account under the heading “state and local programs” under the heading “Federal Emergency Management Agency” for “Trucking Industry Security Grants”, $5,500,000 are rescinded.

You can’t get anymore specific than that. This too should be considered a “systemic failure” that is all too common in Washington DC. Obviously we have no idea whether equipment that 4.5 million might have bought would have been in place in Amsterdam to catch that bomber, but we do know that pulling it ensured it wouldn’t be somewhere, to include Amsterdam. And Democrats wonder why people don’t take them seriously when it comes to national security?

Just another, in a long line of reasons, that politicians like Christopher Dodd are the problem, not the solution, to many of our security issues. They don’t take it seriously and engage in behind the scenes looting of the very security mechanisms we’ve given our politicians as a security priority for pet projects. My guess is, other than what is found in the Washington Examiner, the analysis of what went wrong won’t contain anything about this shameful and irresponsible action by Dodd and the Democrats. But it damn well should.



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26 Responses to NWA Bomber A Result Of”Systemic Failure” And “Systemic Looting”?

  • Maybe someone has already said this and I just missed it but another huge whole in ‘the system’ is that we had an informant , the father. We have now plastered his name all over the place saying this is the snitch, making him a prime target. How many other people who have info will now not come forward because they don’t want us plastering  their names all over the place?

  • McQ… politicians like Christopher Dodd are the problem, not the solution, to many of our security issues. They don’t take it seriously and engage in behind the scenes looting of the very security mechanisms we’ve given our politicians as a security priority for pet projects.

    I suggest that the politicians take the problem as “seriously” as the American people – or, at least, those fractions that constitutes various political bases – do.  Those of us on the right on this issue are concerned about terrorists killing people and we want aggressive measures taken to try to prevent this.

    On the left, however, while there is (I suppose) some concern about terrorism, the greater concern is with civil liberties and our reputation around the world.

    Both sides have some concerns about costs.

    Politicians have to weigh these factors when deciding what measures to take and how much money to spend.  Add to it that (thank heavens and George Bush) we hadn’t had a successful terrorist attack on our soil between 9-11 and Ft. Hood*, and it’s easy to see why people got a little complacent.  As this very blog noted just the other day, the odds of being killed by terrorists are quite slim; shall we spend lots of money and create lots of hassle for travelers (and, I also note, give lots more power to the government) to further reduce a statistically negligable threat?

    In this particular case, if I was Dodd, I would say that I moved a small amount of money from the TSA to firefighters because, in my judgement, the risk of fire is greater than the risk of terrorist attacks.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to scrub myself with disinfectant and get a penicillin shot for just pretending to be a filthy, corrupt democrat.


    (*) Some people would argue that the Ft. Hood killer wasn’t a “terrorist”, or at least no more so than the lunatic who shot up Virginia Tech.

  • Several years ago, I left Central London on the Heathrow Express, walked up into terminal 3 and checked in.  Ducking into the Red Carpet Club, for coffee and juice, I took an apple to eat on the plane.

    At Dulles, I picked up my bags and was standing in the customs line when a uniformed agent with a beagle asked me, “Do you have an apple in your bag?”
    I was floored.  I took out my 13″ G4 PowerBook and said, “Yeah, how did he know it wasn’t a PC?”
    The Agriculture inspector laughed and asked again, “A real apple?”  I remembered the fruit and gave it to him.  I’m probably on an Apple Sumggling Perp list.  The point, of course, is that dogs can find things because of their sense of smell and they are cheap.
    Don’t buy multimillion dollar full body scanners.  Get a trio of trained dogs and fire three dozen TSA screeners.  Dogs can detect these explosives without racial profiling, searching grandmothers or joining a labor union. 

    “Smokeless Powder, blasting/safety fuse (content black powder), TNT, C-4, Water Gel, Detonator Cord, Date Sheet, Nitro Dynamite, Sodium Nitrate, Potassium Chlorate., RDX, PETN, Ammonia Dynamite…. Semtex, Military Dynamite, Sodium Chlorate, Ammonia Nitrate Fertilizer (ANFO), Kino Pac, HMX and PETN Detonator Cord.”

    • I’ve seen dogs do the same.  There’s a couple of problems I see though.
      One is that dogs have bad days.  I’m sure there are days the dogs are ‘off’.  And having less than 100% effectiveness bugs people.
      The other is that drug smugglers have been trying to avoid drug sniffing dogs for a long time.  I’m sure they’ve developed techniques to avoid it.  The only reason that dogs still work is that such a large quantity of drugs are shipped and smuggled, they are all probably not hidden properly.

      • One is that dogs have bad days.  I’m sure there are days the dogs are ‘off’.  And having less than 100% effectiveness bugs people.

        I’ll take a dog’s ‘off’ day more than I would take these TSA screener’s ‘best’ day…  Anyday.

        • I believe its Dogs vs. Automated Mechanical Sniffers.
          I wouldn’t expect a TSA screener sniffing a peron’s underwear would be taken too well.

          • Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker has shown how dogs pick up diseases  in humans several (?) times better than mechanical detection devices.

          • @Sharpshooter,
            I’m fully aware of that.  And its been known for a while.  But its hasn’t caught on.
            Why?  Because people don’t have faith in the reliability of animals anymore than humans.

    • Heck, I had an apple in my bag in Los Angeles, ate it in the terminal, and then got on a plane for Australia. In Sydney, a cute little security beagle nosed my bag, resulting in a conversation with the handler. I told him about the apple, and he said it was quite within the dog’s ability to smell out an apple that had only been there for a couple of hours fifteen hours earlier.

      • Beagle’s noses are five times more sensitive than a German Shepard’s, but they’re not as vicious in the attack role. If all you need is a nose, there’s no better breed.

    • But then we would run afoul of PETA. Priorities, my good man, priorities.

  • I can’t get annoyed at the money aspect you cite (though hell yes I’ll use it for cheap point scoring payback every chance possible!) because at the end of the day the problem is caused by plain old human fu*kery.

    At any point along the line, had someone used proper judgement this never would’ve happened. Thank god that someone did use proper judgement – the passengers who subdued this subhuman

  • No no, better we should randomly frisk some blue haired grannies from Iowa, make sure they’re not a risk.

  • And now for a moment of forgetfulness, the Dems say the GOP are politicizing the issue.

  • Time for Obama to man up.  His first responsibility is national defense, including homeland security.  He can’t take 4 days to get his story straight.  The Liberals control Congress with super majorities. Republicans can’t filibuster in the Senate and they are 80 votes down in the House.

    So with all these brilliant Liberal democrats on the job, how did a radical Nigerian muslim man on the HSA watch list get on an NWA aircraft with 300 passengers bound for Detroit with 80 grains of PETN in his underwear?   Through no fault of the Obama Administration, 300 passengers survived.  Below is what 50 mg of PETN did to a tree.
    Bush’s fault?  No.  The system worked perfectly? Hardly.  George W. Bush went 7 years without an attack on US soil.  Did the Liberals attack Bush on national defense?  

    We are over 11 months into his administration and radical muslims have launched three terrorist attacks – Little Rock, Ft. Hood and NWA.  

    • I’ve seen that video in a couple of places. Okay, color me impressed with what a small amount of explosives will do. But the question I haven’t been able to find an answer to is, what happens when you mix the explosives on the spot? Admittedly, my experience with explosives is 30 years ago, but I thought usually almost always you need a detonator of some sort to set off modern high explosives. In other words a shock wave from det cord or a blasting cap. My layman’s mind says if you mix a solid explosive with some sort of liquid you get combustion, not an explosion. Combustion in an airliner is bad, but not necessarily fatal to the aircraft.

    • 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. I think career employees were uncomfortable with the Bush procedures and policies and were relieved to not have to live under them any longer.”

  • Sorry,

    Make that 80 grams of PETN

  • damned christians 😉

  • Our future in bio-fuels (or why Al Gore really doesn’t care about bio-fuels) …

    By the time Bill Clinton took office, funding for the program had dwindled to a trickle, and in 1996, the Department of Energy abandoned the program to focus all its biofuel efforts on ethanol. A dark decade fell upon the field of algal biofuel. There wasn’t even money available to take care of the algal collection that had been so painstakingly created.

  • I can’t get incensed over that.
    First, I can’t imagine a cent of that was going to be spent <I>outside the US</i>, which is where a sniffer would have had to have been to be effective here.
    Second, I’m not sure $4.5M will buy even a single machine.

  • (Also, re. the post title, the first thing I thought was “NWA Nomber? But Easy E’s dead!”

  • I find it ironic that the “load in his pants” terrorist decided to wait until the plane was about to land in Detroit. Given the shape of Detroit, waiting till just before landing probably meant that less life and property were at risk .. the most “high value” target at risk was the plane and it’s occupants. If the plane had gone down in Detroit, it would probably have been considered “urban redevelopment by other means.”