Free Markets, Free People


Why People Continue To Be Angry About The Crotch Bomber

In recent testimony before Congress, Timothy Healy, the head of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, explained the unit’s “reasonable suspicion” standard in answer to a question from a member of Sen. Joe Lieberman’s Homeland Security Committee:

“Reasonable suspicion requires ‘articulable’ facts which, taken together with rational inferences, reasonably warrant a determination that an individual is known or suspected to be or has been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to, terrorism and terrorist activities, and is based on the totality of the circumstances. Mere guesses or inarticulate ‘hunches’ are not enough to constitute reasonable suspicion.”

Uh, ok … in that swarm of legalese, I see “engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to, terrorism and terrorist activities…”. Got it.

So you’d need come “articulable facts” which could “reasonably warrant a determination” that the guy  may be a terrorist based on his behavior. And one assumes his behavior would have to catch the attention of the authorities, correct?.

Well let’s see.

  1. His dad, a former minister in Nigeria, informed the US embassy there that his son had been radicalized (the dad obviously had a reason for concern).
  2. US intelligence had been following him for a while, dubbing him “the Nigerian” (one assumes there was a reason).
  3. He was on a watch list (one assumes there was a reason).
  4. He had been banned from Britain (yup, one assumes there was a reason).
  5. The British intelligence service had identified him to our intelligence agencies in 2008 as a potential threat (sigh, uh, yeah, reason).
  6. He’d just visited Yemen, an al Qaeda hotbed (given the first 5, one can reasonably guess at the reason).
  7. He bought a one-way ticket to the United States in Africa through Europe (red flag 1).
  8. He paid cash (red flag 2).
  9. He checked no luggage (red flag 3).
  10. Just wow.

OK, forget 10, but are those or are those not “articulable facts” which should have “reasonably warranted a determination” that this guy fit the profile of someone who is usually up too no good? No?

Well, let’s review – Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, bought a one-way ticket to the US, using cash and checked no luggage. 8 years ago. So, as Jon Stewart ask recently on the Daily Report, what other than the location of the explosives changed in those 8 years?

Nada.  Our lack of security sure hasn’t changed, has it, when the same MO used 8 years before succeeds again.  All that changed after Reid was we had to take our shoes off for screening.  Is our underwear next?

Not one, but two systems broke down in this little debacle. The intelligence system which apparently still keeps its dots separate from each other (or simply doesn’t find them compelling enough to check out) and makes watch lists it doesn’t watch (it’s called complacency and incompetence, folks). It certainly was all there wasn’t it? Or at least a bunch of “articulable facts” that should have “reasonably warranted a determination” that this guy might be a bad guy worth tracking, no?

And the second system which failed was the airline security system which should have picked up on the fact that they had a guy traveling out of Nigeria on a one-way ticket paid for in cash and with no checked luggage. This is an automated system which shares info, no?

I mean how hard is it to design software to constantly peruse passenger info and when it gets a 3 category hit like that, alert someone? Sound a siren. Pop out in little red flags. Something. But apparently must be very hard to do, because the same problem exists now as when Richard Reid tried it lo those many years ago. This most recent bomber should never have made it out of Amsterdam. No, he should never have been allowed on the plane in Nigeria, given those three indicators alone, without a full body search.

So good job FBI – you’ve got your legalese down pat but couldn’t catch a crotch bomber if he wore a sign. And good work CIA and National Terrorism Center for connecting the dots and passing the info along. And good job airline security – nary a clue the guy was a possible threat even though information should have been available that would have draped him in red flags.  Heck, the ticket agent should have picked up on this.

If you’re wondering, then, why people are angry about this, it’s because after all the money and all the assurances that security was better than before, we have “Richard Reid Jr.” using precisely the same MO used 8 years before and almost pulling it off again. You might be able to shrug this off as luck and happenstance if this guy had some entirely new way of getting on the plane (credit card, round trip ticket, checked bag – I mean how hard is it, really?), but he didn’t. That’s the problem.  And that’s also why people are angry!

Meanwhile, the comedy we call “security” continues.

~McQ


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19 Responses to Why People Continue To Be Angry About The Crotch Bomber

  • Well, let’s review – Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, bought a one-way ticket to the US, using cash and checked no luggage. 8 years ago. So, as Jon Stewart ask recently on the Daily Report, what other than the location of the explosives changed in those 8 years?


    I’m not so sure nothing didn’t change.  Did it really take 8 year for AQ to give this another go?  I know they’re down on their luck as of late, but I’m not seeing that being the cause.

    I’m curious why the question hasn’t come up anywhere.  But did the Obama make any changes to security policy?  The way the various lists are maintained, shared or acted upon in the past year?

    Although the implication is that Obama left Bush’s policies intact, I have trouble believing without asking the question, that this administration left the system alone.

    Even so, there’s one other thing that has changed.  Nobody outside this country fears Obama.  Would Yemen have taken AQ’s rise in its country as nonchalantly as it did if Obama wasn’t President?  Would Bush have addressed AQ in Yemen sooner?

    I mean its 8 years for AQ to try again for something the price of a plane ticket and a few test tubes of chemicals?  I believe something is different.

  • I mean how hard is it to design software to constantly peruse passenger info and when it gets a 3 category hit like that, alert someone? Sound a siren. Pop out in little red flags.


    My guess is that such criteria would lead to skewed racial, ethnic, gender, or even religious samplings for indirect reasons.  And therefore deemed not politically correct.

  • The Atlantic reportsthe administration and Congress slashed the budget for the National Counterterrorism Center by at least $25 million. Those affected, the official said, included employees responsible for maintaining the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) system, which contains the list of about 550,000 known or suspected terrorists.

    Gee, I bet that really helped to motivate the NCTC employees.
    It’s really sad when our best hope is that these terrorists will hit DC first … only to have them show in Detroit.

  • I know why people are mad about this happening.

    It is because we have a complete imbecile sitting in the Oval Office playing President, when he should be back in Chicago making criminal deals with his good pal Tony Rezko while he raises money for leftist terrorists.

    And, as long as we have that imbecile in the Oval Office, we have no chance of being safe from Islamic terrorists.

    I hate to say it, but I predict that before long we will be hit by terrorists. And when that happens, Americans will die. And when they die, it will be the end of Obama’s administration.

    • We have an Administration that began looking “under the bed” for “domestic terrorists” of the model that so often makes them look like “angry white men” (i.e. Timothy McVeigh et al) but seems to think that using their “community organizer” skills they can talk them down.
      I suggest they imagine their worst nightmare of a bigoted white Klansman willing and commited to do anything to make their life miserable and kill them, their nighbors and friends just because of who you are … now imagine they are not white.

  • Neo said: “I suggest they imagine their worst nightmare of a bigoted white Klansman willing and commited to do anything to make their life miserable and kill them…”

    I am no apologist for the KKK or any racist thug group, but tell me: when was the last time that the Klan bombed anyone? Or threatened to bring down the country through terrorism? When the Klan is full of violent pieces of crap, let’s go after them for that. But let’s not forget that the lunatics and fruitcakes who have used violence in the past 40 years are all on the American Left…let us not forget The Snorkeler’s™ good friend William Ayers, and his buddies in the Weather Underground. They blew stuff up, and when it was pointed out to The Snorkeler™ he dismissed Ayers’ role in it, pooh-poohed that he may have been a terrorist, etc. This is why The Snorkeler™ doesn’t want to say “Islamic terrorism” – it is because he attended a madrassa in Indonesia, and his father was a Muslim. Fighting a war against Islamic extremism is just not in him.

    • I just used the KKK as a “strawman” that fits their stereotype for “bad folks” … then asked them to imagine they aren’t Klansmen afterall.  It seems they think they can pull of some sort of “Kumbaya” moment that will make the world a better place, but alas, some folks think “Kumbaya” is a dirty word.

  • Two dots to connect: the utter failure to stop the Panty Bomber and the alleged treatment of Michael Yon, addressed in the previous post.  What does this say about our government?

    Another blogger I enjoy had this to say shortly after Christmas:

    … tell me again why I have to bear the humiliation of being groped and swabbed every time I fly? Someone please explain it to me because, clearly, I don’t understand. Can’t they just put me on a terrorist watchlist so that TSA will leave me alone?

    On a related subject, submitted for your consideration:

    Which presents the greater ultimate danger to our liberties and even our lives:
    (A) Terrorists

    (B) An increasingly powerful, intrusive government

    • The lawyer couple who overheard the conversation between the “well-dressed Indian gentleman” friend of the “load in his pants” terrorist and the ticket agent in Amsterdam still has not been fully debated/debunked/explained.  They claimed his friend told the ticket agent that he was from Sudan and didn’t have a passport and the agent sent them to the security manager.
      It’s one thing to get groped and swabbed over a genuine breakdown in the system, but if this all revolves around a security manager who let our terrorist on the plane “without a passport”, all the new measures are pointless.

  • Joan Rivers, too.

    Joan Rivers is many things: Funny lady. Jewelry mogul. Red carpet mercenary. But a terrorist?
    Can we talk?
    Rivers, 76, was deemed a danger to national security and booted from a Newark-bound flight in Costa Rica on Sunday by a jittery Continental Airlines gate agent who found the two names on her passport fishy.
    http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/2010/01/05/2010-01-05_agent_saves_flight_from_joan_rivers.html

  • But who but the most dedicated operative would go out on a limb and go after a African Moslem without a most smoking gun.  The area under the bus may be crowed but here is still room; the CIA operatives from the Bush Administration, who took career risks and possibly would face criminal charges to safeguard America, are there.  Lessons learned?  Yep.

  • Some good news …

    Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — Fourteen suspected terrorists died Tuesday night when the bus they rigged with explosives blew up prematurely, police said.

    I guess the Obama Administration “outsourced” this effort.

  • I would really like to say that I like this blog but it is so spot on it makes me want to puke. And now they want to do virtual strip searches that can’t see software substances like liquids or powders. So this screwballs explosives still would not have been detected. Is our government the most dysfuntional ever?

  • “…when was the last time that the Klan bombed anyone? Or threatened to bring down the country through terrorism?”  Well there is Senator Robert “KKK” Byrd (D, WV), he’s done quite a bit to terrorize the USA.

  • Just a thought — with all the “connect the dots”  inferences, I haven’t seen any actual statistics cited about how often an airline runs across a single passenger who buys a one-way ticket, with cash, and without checking any luggage …   Yes, it seems obvious at first glance, but could it be that this may not actually be rare?   I’m of the opinion that much went wrong in the system in this case (the watch list and the father’s warning, etc.), but I’m still curious whether the ticket agent would find this highly unusual …

    • Given we screen every passenger before they board and some get special screening, why isn’t that enough of a red flag to put them in that special screening que?

      My guess, in this day of credit cards and online ticket purchases, cash one-way tickets with no luggage aren’t at all that frequent.

  • Bruce, you might want to update your dots; some of them appear to be not quite there:

    http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2010/01/revisiting-intelligence-failure

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