Sunday, November 21, 2010


Oh how soon we forget about national or even personal security issues. Many seem to be in such a head long rush to “protect their privacy rights” or head off a “police state” to the extent that they are compromising our very existence. We have gone from a connected, dedicated and united populous immediately following 911 to one divided even on matters of national security where common sense should reign supreme. Our enemies are licking their chops at the heightened potential to do us harm given our most recent and divisive reaction to the new Transportation Safety Administration’s (TSA) security measures.

We appear to have forgotten all about Richard Colvin Reid, the infamous Muslim terrorist and confessed trained member of al-Qaeda who in December 2001 hid explosives inside the soles of his shoes before boarding American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami. There were 185 passengers plus the flight crew aboard that plane…

Reid actually made it on board his plane (he couldn’t today) where his plot was thwarted only by alert passengers and flight attendants who dispatched Reid as he tried to light the fuse of the explosives with a match. This guy has to be dumber than dirt – but he made it on board a passenger jet even with some strict security measures. Reid, by the way, was found guilty of terrorism charges and is now serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole at the supermax Federal penitentiary in Florence, Colorado.

How could we forget the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot where terrorists intended to detonate liquid explosives carried on board at least 10 airliners travelling from the United Kingdom to the United States and Canada?. The plot was discovered and foiled by British police before the explosives could be delivered to the planes though we surely wonder whether security measures of the day would have been sufficient to detect the explosives in carry on or checked baggage before takeoff. Might of Right thinks not as the extraordinary restrictions on carrying liquids aboard passenger aircraft were installed shortly thereafter and remain in place to this day.

Then there was Northwest Airlines 2009 Christmas day flight 253 with 279 passengers, 8 flight attendants, and 3 pilots traveling from Amsterdam to Detroit when passenger and al-Qaeda operative Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate a bomb that had been concealed in his clothing. The plane was starting its descent into Detroit when Abdulmutallab set off the bomb which after some popping noises, malfunctioned then ignited a fire which again due to the intercession of several passengers and flight attendants did not spread further than the terrorist’s seat, part of the wall of the aircraft and Abdulmutallab himself causing first and second degree burns to his hands, second degree burns to his right inner thigh and, yes, his genitalia. Hold that thought… Yes, the plastic explosives were sewn into his underwear. I hope it really hurt… With current security measures in place Abdulmutallab would not have been able to board the plane.

Abdulmutallab has been charged on six criminal counts, including the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) and the attempted murder of 289 people. He is awaiting trial and is being held in the Federal Correctional Institution, Milan, the federal prison in York Charter Township, Michigan.

We need note that Abdulmutallab’s Father met with two CIA officers at the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria where he reported his son as a possible security threat. British Intelligence also reported suspicious activity by Abdulmutallab prompting him in November, 2009 to be added to the all-encompassing Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), the United States Government's central database on known or suspected international terrorists.

Abdulmutallab, however, was not added to the FBI's Terrorist Screening Database, the U.S.'s No Fly List nor was his U.S. visa revoked. Apparently, despite all the warning signs Abdulmutallab was not considered a serious threat and he, thusly, was able to pursue his sinister plot. In essence, he really didn’t make anybody’s operative watch list.

While this last incident did not occur on an aircraft it surely has far ranging implications. Last August, 2009 Abdullah Hassan Tali al-Asiri, an al Qaeda terrorist and one of Saudi Arabia's most wanted men, attempted the assassination of Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, head of Saudi Arabia's counter terrorism operations – in his own palace. Borrowing an old trick from the narcotics trade Asieri inserted a pound of high explosives, plus a detonator in his rectum. He avoided detection by airport security and the Prince’s palace security. Fortunately, he was unsuccessful in his attempt though aviation security folks are now on high alert for repeats of this technique. It would appear that even these new scans or pat downs may not detect explosives so placed. Maybe a more widespread use of explosive sniffing dogs will work…

Following each and every one of the aforementioned incidents, there was a great public outcry and furor where urgent demands were made to strengthen our security system so as to head off future attempts at terrorism. Well, here it is not one year after Northwest Airlines Flight 253 and we seem to have forgotten the horror of those moments as the political climate and mindset has seemingly dramatically changed.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the system was broke then and, frankly, it’s not a whole lot better today - even with the TSA’s new security measures. There are major flaws in our aviation security network and we do not appear willing to engage the necessary actions to address these very fluid issues. Al Qaeda is earnestly aware of our vulnerabilities and will not hesitate to exploit them. No shoe scans – then a shoe bomb, no comprehensive examination of fluids – voila, liquid explosives and no mandatory pat downs or extensive body scans and you have plastic explosives hidden in body cavities and other intimate dark places.

All the discussion about passenger’s rights and dignity and touching this and that - as my Grandfather Littlefield used to say is – pure malarkey. Where professional pat downs using the palms of agents' hands somehow are interpreted as intrusive and degrading groping by “goons” and when people organize flying boycotts to teach the airlines a lesson is ludicrous and totally counterproductive. I fervently agree that, “It is irresponsible for a group to suggest travelers opt out of the very screening that could prevent an attack.” It is mostly about deterrence.

Yes, it’s the right of any US citizen to decline a scan or pat down but it’s also the right of TSA to deny them access to any aircraft plus any potential legal ramifications which, no doubt, will be determined in our courts. You don’t want to fly – that’s OK. Flying is not an entitlement and if you don’t want to cooperate, then get ready to use another mode of transportation though we suspect that some of these measures will ultimately also involve public bus and rail. Most citizens want TSA and the airlines to adopt the most stringent security measures possible. Perhaps we should all look to El Al, Israel’s national airline and their very successful security practices.

Now we at Might of Right certainly get it when it comes to exempting pilots and flight attendants from the scans. Though we are assured that the scans are not dangerous, better safe than sorry when it comes to repeated, daily, long term exposures for these flight crew members. These mostly self-policing folks also have to pass other intense scrutiny making scans somewhat redundant.

Now the greatest conundrum - What are we to do when it comes to our children and grandchildren? I don’t have an answer for that but suspect the risk is minimal. We do note that al Qaeda and other radical Muslim groups have historically used children as human bombs (Young People of Paradise) and vividly remember Vietnam where the VC strapped IEDs and hand grenades to children who detonated them when near US soldiers. Yea, that happened

We don’t need private firms to manage the security process when we have a professional cadre of trained TSA employees ready to engage the task. Apparently it’s not OK to be “felt up” by a TSA employee but acceptable from an employee of a private security agency? As for the statements I have seen about being “groped by $8.00 per hour TSA goons” demonstrate a provocative ignorance of the TSA’s compensation system. Entry level TSA slots appear to be well above that ($11.00+ per hour) with the average annual TSA wage according to one TSA officer - in the $40’s range.

Our enemies know that they can take advantage of our incredibly short-sighted, sometimes puritan sensibilities and have designed systems such as malleable plastic explosives that can be contoured to the human body (no bumps or bulges to arouse suspicion) - all so that they can pursue their murderous agenda.

I’m no sheep though fully intend to cooperate with TSA and any legally constituted authority that requires an examination of my person or belongings/luggage. If I have to strip down to my birthday suit and prance around the security area in order to assure the safety of our planes and passengers, (however uncomfortable that is), I will do so. Though Friends, Family and onlookers will probably be absolutely horrified (or laugh), I really don’t care if anybody sees me naked or can see my body parts or touches me in a pat down. I am comfortable in my own skin.

We need to get our heads out of the sand and look at his issue in the light of day. It appears that the most vehement and sometimes obnoxious privacy advocates are not aware that Nineteen Eighty-Four has come and gone. The enemy knows how we think and they will most assuredly exploit these sensitivities and use them against us. We take away one avenue of attack and they will inevitably look elsewhere for another opportunity.

Let’s all get real and stop playing into the hands of those who would do us real harm. The war against terrorism is far from over and even appears to be expanding if we are to acknowledge the latest security revelation relating to bomb facsimiles as air cargo from Yemen bound for two synagogues in Chicago.

Yes, while the new TSA security measures are incredibly inconvenient, intrusive, uncomfortable and push our cultural / social norms, they are necessary. It’s not about Freedom, but about Life! We need to expand our vigilance, not constrain those who are trying to protect us. We need to think well outside the box with both planned and unscheduled/unpredictable security measures including the use of bomb sniffing dogs, expanded profiling and airport surveillance in order to remain one step ahead of the terrorists. I certainly understand the value of a healthy system of checks and balances but those that are so vehement in their protestations even to invoking our Founding Fathers who could never have envisioned this situation or the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution - are ultimately doing more harm than good. But, that is their right.

While we all have choices it would appear that this issue along with many other controversies seem to generate mostly divisive and visceral adversarial perspectives that dominate our society today and keeps folks of good faith from openly sharing and debating legitimate opposing viewpoints (we’re right – you’re wrong, period). We are still amazed with the lack of cordiality and respect for if we believe the sentiment expressed in recent articles, blogs and threads by those opposed to the scanning and “enhanced” pat downs – if you capitulate, you are a lemming, sheep, pervert or a less than patriotic American.

It would certainly appear that TSA security procedures are working hence the aforementioned terrorism originating in airports and venues outside the United States. No doubt we need to get everybody else on board at the same level and continue to reinvent and evaluate our security procedures. I am absolutely convinced that without the current deterrents we would have planes falling out of the sky…


Ned Buxton

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