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"A systemic failure has occurred. And I consider that totally unacceptable" (UPDATED)

I consider an ideology that promotes political correctness over national security to be the systemic failure but I digress:

President Barack Obama on Tuesday blamed "human and systemic failures" for allowing a botched Christmas Day attack aboard a Detroit-bound airliner and a U.S. official said the incident was linked to al Qaeda.

Interrupting a vacation in Hawaii for the second straight day to address the U.S. public, Obama listed several mistakes that allowed a 23-year-old Islamic militant from Nigeria to smuggle explosives onto a plane to the United States.

"What is apparent was that there was a mix of human and systemic failures that contributed to this potential catastrophic breach of security," Obama told reporters.

"There were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been pieced together," he said.

Obama, a Democrat, is under pressure from opposition Republicans who fault the administration for not preventing such an attack and the president for keeping silent about it for three days.

...

Obama said he asked to have preliminary findings by Thursday on reviews he ordered after the incident on the way the United States places people on a "terrorist watch list" and on U.S. air travel screening procedures.

"A systemic failure has occurred. And I consider that totally unacceptable," he said.

Can we profile now Mr. President?  Can we leave children and little old ladies alone now in our airports Mr. President?  Can we pull aside Middle Eastern looking men and men from nations known to have a radical Muslim problem now Mr. President?  Can we look to Islam as the common denominator of all those who want to kill innocents Mr. President?

Because if the answer continues to be no Mr. President, then there's your systemic failure sir.

Crossposted(*).

UPDATE: Via DaveD in the comments, a look back to a most cogent and relevant Boston Globe column by Jeff Jacoby:

THE SAFEST airline in the world, it is widely agreed, is El Al, Israel's national carrier. The safest airport is Ben Gurion International, in Tel Aviv. No El Al plane has been attacked by terrorists in more than three decades, and no flight leaving Ben Gurion has ever been hijacked. So when US aviation intensified its focus on security after 9/11, it seemed a good bet that the experience of travelers in American airports would increasingly come to resemble that of travelers flying out of Tel Aviv.

But in telling ways, the two experiences remain notably different. For example, passengers in the United States are required to take off their shoes for X-ray screening, while passengers at Ben Gurion are spared that indignity. On the other hand, major American airports generally offer the convenience of curbside check-in, while in Israel baggage and traveler stay together until the security check is completed. Screeners at American airports don't usually engage in conversation with passengers, unless you count their endlessly repeated instructions about emptying pockets and taking laptops out of briefcases. At Ben Gurion, security officials make a point of engaging in dialogue with almost everyone who's catching a plane.

Nearly five years after Sept. 11, 2001, US airport security remains obstinately focused on intercepting bad things -- guns, knives, explosives. It is a reactive policy, aimed at preventing the last terrorist plot from being repeated. The 9/11 hijackers used box cutters as weapons, so sharp metal objects were barred from carry-on luggage. Would-be suicide terrorist Richard Reid tried to ignite a bomb in his shoe, so now everyone's footwear is screened for tampering. Earlier this month British authorities foiled a plan to blow up airliners with liquid explosives; as a result, toothpaste and cologne have become air-travel contraband.

Of course the Israelis check for bombs and weapons too, but always with the understanding that things don't hijack planes, terrorists do -- and that the best way to detect terrorists is to focus on intercepting not bad things, but bad people. To a much greater degree than in the United States, security at El Al and Ben Gurion depends on intelligence and intuition -- what Rafi Ron, the former director of security at Ben Gurion, calls the human factor.

Israeli airport security, much of it invisible to the untrained eye, begins before passengers even enter the terminal. Officials constantly monitor behavior, alert to clues that may hint at danger: bulky clothing, say, or a nervous manner. Profilers -- that's what they're called -- make a point of interviewing travelers, sometimes at length. They probe, as one profiling supervisor told CBS, for ``anything out of the ordinary, anything that does not fit." Their questions can seem odd or intrusive, especially if your only previous experience with an airport interrogation was being asked whether you packed your bags yourself.

Unlike in US airports, where passengers go through security after checking in for their flights and submitting their luggage, security at Ben Gurion comes first. Only when the profiler is satisfied that a passenger poses no risk is he or she allowed to proceed to the check-in counter. By that point, there is no need to make him remove his shoes, or to confiscate his bottle of water.

The President and his advisors, dare I say the rest of the world, would do well to read that column in its entirety if they're serious about protecting innocents from Islamists.


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Comments (33)

This is an excerpt from a 2... (Below threshold)
DaveD:

This is an excerpt from a 2006 article in the Boston Globe discussing security at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel and comparing security strategy to that at US airports. It has remained all I have ever felt the need to say in that manner.

'But because federal policy still bans ethnic or religious profiling, US passengers continue to be singled out for special scrutiny mostly on a random basis. Countless hours have been spent patting down elderly women in wheelchairs, toddlers with pacifiers, even former US vice presidents -- time that could have been used instead to concentrate on passengers with a greater likelihood of being terrorists.

No sensible person imagines that ethnic or religious profiling alone can stop every terrorist plot. But it is illogical and potentially suicidal not to take account of the fact that so far every suicide-terrorist plotting to take down an American plane has been a radical Muslim man. It is not racism or bigotry to argue that the prevention of Islamist terrorism necessitates a special focus on Muslim travelers, just as it is not racism or bigotry when police trying to prevent a Mafia killing pay closer attention to Italians.

Of course most Muslims are not violent jihadis, but all violent jihadis are Muslim. ``This nation," President Bush has said, ``is at war with Islamic fascists." How much longer will we tolerate an aviation security system that pretends, for reasons of political correctness, not to know that?'

This article was from the Boston Globe I emphasize.

Ever since Timothy McVeigh ... (Below threshold)
Justrand:

Ever since Timothy McVeigh committed his horrendous terror act, 99.9% of all terrorism worldwide has been Islamic. Nothing else on Earth is so "pure".

The TSA may not be able to "profile"...but you as a passenger can! Watch your fellow travelers, plan ahead...and take action like that young man did who saved all those lives by dragging that scumbag out of his seat.

Oh, and another bonus about just being a passenger: you can beat the scumbag senseless and don't have to read him a Miranda warning!

We're on our own, folks.

The insanity of institution... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

The insanity of institutionalized political correctness just keeps getting better.

In loco parentis is a stupid, patronizing national security policy, and it's going to get some of us killed.

We need to call bullshit on our own government.

bobdog: "We need to call... (Below threshold)
Justrand:

bobdog: "We need to call bullshit on our own government."

ya gotta get in line, bobdog...and it's a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnng line! :)

"Luckily" the Dems have the answer to all our problems: MORE and BIGGER Government! So I guess we can all relax. Meanwhile, back to the Hawaiian surf report...

Obama and his marxist cabal... (Below threshold)
TexBob:

Obama and his marxist cabal are systemic failures.

Pelosi, Reid, Frank, Dodd, Durbin, Feinstin, Boxer, Waters, Wiener, Baucus, Nelson, Snowe, Collins, Specter, Franken, etc are all systemic failures.

Pretty much ALL of Washington, DC is a Systemic Failure.

Arnold and Kallyfornia is a systemic failure.

I could go on and on...

"Can we leave children and ... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"Can we leave children and little old ladies alone now in our airports Mr. President?"

Well, no.
EVERYONE needs to be looked at.
We just need to add to the system a way of profiling likely bombers and look at them extra close.

If the net sources are corr... (Below threshold)
jim2:

If the net sources are correct, Ben Gurion is Israel's air hub and has recently grown to 11.5 M annual passenger traffic.

I wonder how feasible those very human resource-intensive practices would be at much larger and busier airports?

Consider in 2008:

- Atlanta 90M
- O'Hare 70M
- Heathrow 67M
- Tokyo 66M
- Paris 61M
- LA 60M
- Dallas 57M
- Beijing 56M
- Frankfurt 53M
- Denver 52M

Others:
- JFK 48M
- Newark 35M
- Dulles+Reagan 42M
- BWI 21M (Balt-Wash-Intl)

Even the St. Louis airport (Lambert) had about 14.5M in 2008.

jim2: "I wonder how feas... (Below threshold)
Justrand:

jim2: "I wonder how feasible those very human resource-intensive practices would be at much larger and busier airports?"

(a) you want to be safe or not?
(b) there are ways to vastly improve our security without being as "resource-intensive"...but they ALL involve profiling!

Jim2, maybe if they'd lose ... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

Jim2, maybe if they'd lose all the dead weight and non-performers in the system they could hire and train a larger staff of "profilers" to roam the airports. What am I saying?! Lose the dead weight? I'm sorry, I lost my mind there for a moment.

We don't have to adopt their strategy verbatim. But we could take the basics and improvise on them to accomodate larger crowds.

Looks like Napalitano and O... (Below threshold)
Hank:

Looks like Napalitano and Obama have a solution.

Per yesterdays Examiner, they want to unionize TSA.

"I wonder how feasible t... (Below threshold)
914:

"I wonder how feasible those very human resource-intensive practices would be at much larger and busier airports"


Much more feasible than cleaning up the mess of even one destroyed aircraft, 100's of lives lost not to mention the economic hit the Airlines and economy as a whole would take.

Per yesterdays Exa... (Below threshold)
Stan25:
Per yesterdays Examiner, they want to unionize TSA.

Correct me if I am wrong, but didn't the Congress put in the bill when they passed it and Bush signed it, to keep the unions out of Homeland Security? Unionize and there will be even larger mess than there already is. All of the people on duty will take their coffee and smoke breaks at the same time. That will effectively shut things down for at least an hour.

For what it's worth, when I... (Below threshold)

For what it's worth, when I flew in mid-December I did notice a marked change in security procedures from previous flights to and from the same airports. And note that it IS possible to do this at high volume airports. Every person, as far as I am aware, already has to pass through an initial screening at US airports, yes? At this screening you hand over your license and boarding pass. This is the only time you have to show your ID, though you need the boarding pass later. At this step is when every person can be screened, though, yes, perhaps not as fully at busy airports - but you can certainly be flagged for follow up, as I was.

Like I said, before you gave them your ID and pass, they glanced at it, glanced at you, scribbled something on your boarding pass and off you went. This is pretty much what still happened at the larger airport that was my destination. However, at the smaller airport, the agent spoke to every person and clearly paid attention to their response, even if it was just a pleasantry, to get and gauge some reaction. They checked IDs with a flashlight or blacklight or something. They examined everything for a few seconds more than before and spent much longer looking into the face of everyone they screened than they used to. It is beyond obvious that, at least at this airport at this time (this was before the Christmas incident) they were adopting some of these profiling techniques.

Like I said, I was also pulled aside for a quick, extra look, presumably due to the poofy fleece I was wearing, since that was what received extra attention.

Whether this is an aberration due to a particularly vigilant supervisor or a trial or a phased rollout to all airports, it was a marked change and a welcome one. In all it slowed down passenger processing by perhaps a few seconds, which I know adds up when you talk millions, but those millions aren't all there at once and you can certainly tack on one more screener to make it up at larger airports or during busy times. At every airport I have been to since 9-11 there is always a line at the X-ray check, which means that the screener is already not the cause of delays...if you add a fraction to the time for screening all you are doing is shifting some of the waiting from pre-X-ray to pre-screening.

People need to vote with th... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

People need to vote with their feet and REFUSE to fly until the asshats in charge start taking screening seriously.

They can also DEMAND that Pelosi and Reid fly commercial aircraft, and sit with their hands visible and folded in their laps at all times.

Unless, of course, they like being SHEEP.

Please note that I did not ... (Below threshold)
jim2:

Please note that I did not suggest that the human-resource intensive process of talking with passengers several times each before they board would not be part of a better system.

The problem is that the enormously greater traffic volumes at so many places in a larger country - both geo and pop - means that such a system might not be feasible.

Sources vary on the number of passengers and flights from various airports, but consider that there were (per the one below) a bit over 800M passengers in the US in 2008.

http://www.bts.gov/press_releases/2009/bts019_09/html/bts019_09.html

By analogy, the safest way to package eggs might be one at a time by hand by women between the ages of 35 and 55, but can one require that system when one produces over 6,000 M per month? (September 2009, 6.34 Billion)

When one must manage really large volumes, smaller volume processes may simply no longer be feasible. Sometimes, the smaller ones can not be scaled up.

Anything would be better th... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Anything would be better than the current system where an 80 year old, holder of the Medal of Honor, and former state governor was told 'the computer has selected you for further screening and search'. To his credit, the old warrior told the TSA agent that he would submit to nothing absent a warrant and that the agent had better get his supervisor there NOW.

Good news conservatives! Yo... (Below threshold)
Erbine:

Good news conservatives! You don't have to be afraid anymore!

"The odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade."

The odds of being struck by lightning? 1 in 500,000.

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/12/odds-of-airborne-terror.html

So the liberal take on terr... (Below threshold)

So the liberal take on terrorism is that there's no use crying over spilled milk since only a little milk is spilled?

Tell that to their friends and families, coworkers and acquaintances.

How compassionate. We'll remember that if you 'win the lottery'.

Well falze, when you get ou... (Below threshold)
Erbine:

Well falze, when you get out of nursery school you'll realize that the real world is a dangerous place. If you're afraid of being blown up by terrorists, then you should probably just hide under your bed 24/7.

All I'm saying is that a little perspective goes a long way toward not being manipulated by politicians.

Urban-"The odds... (Below threshold)
914:

Urban-

"The odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade."

The odds of being struck by lightning? 1 in 500,000"

The odds of Barry having a successful presidency and being re-selected? 1 in 4,000,000,000

I think Erbine made up his ... (Below threshold)
klrtz1:

I think Erbine made up his statistics but it still shows how hard hearted liberals have become.

Welcome to the dark side, Erbine. I think I can use that "reasoning": "You're more likely to get hit by lightning than to die of Global Warming", "You're more likely to get hit by lightning than die of second hand smoke", "You're more likely to get hit by lightning than be shot by a licensed concealed carry handgun owner, unless you're committing a crime."

Thanks!

If you want to fly safely, ... (Below threshold)
Roy:

If you want to fly safely, just do what any statistician would do - smuggle a weapon or bomb on board. The odds of two bombs/weapons being on one plane are astronomically small.

klrtz1, follow the link, or... (Below threshold)
Erbine:

klrtz1, follow the link, or continue to look like an idiot. I don't really care which.

This is why it cracks me up... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

This is why it cracks me up every time some liberal calls a conservative "heartless", because Erbine has just demonstrated another lie about compassionate liberalism.

I'm not afraid I'll be subjected to some terror attack nor do I live in a state of fear which forces me to change how I live because of any likelihood of being directly affected by a terror attack.

But someone will be. Erbine apparently thinks we shouldn't complain when people are not protected. Afterall, odds are it won't be us.

Guns, alcohol, cigarettes, ... (Below threshold)
Erbine:

Guns, alcohol, cigarettes, and cars all kill an astronomically higher number of people every year than does terrorism. I mean, it's not even close. Hell, more people die each year just crossing the street.

I assume you complain about them proportionally, Oyster?

Thanks for pointing out how... (Below threshold)
914:

Thanks for pointing out how unlikely by the oods I am to be affected by a terrorist act Erban...However, every terrorist act in this country affects all of us thru loss of freedoms, in the loss of blood and treasure in going to war.

I feel much safer with the elected incompetents in office now!

That's pretty funny, Roy. I... (Below threshold)
Erbine:

That's pretty funny, Roy. It reminds me of Garp after watching a plane crash into the house they were going to buy, "We'll take the house. Honey, the chances of another plane hitting this house are astronomical. It's been pre-disastered. We're going to be safe here."

erbine "Well falze, wh... (Below threshold)
Marc:

erbine "Well falze, when you get out of nursery school you'll realize that the real world is a dangerous place.

erbine...again "Guns, alcohol, cigarettes, and cars all kill an astronomically higher number of people every year than does terrorism."

First, thanks for your over abundance of compassion. No really... I wouldn't lie.... much.

Anyway, correct the real world is a dangerous place, but given that most things that can kill you are random acts [of God if you prefer] having a "Gonad Boomber" hoping to send you to Hell with him/her on YOUR next flight, regardless of your immature "stats game" you're playing, is an entirely different animal.

Here's the deal, YOU take continuous flights until you either are hit by lightning or a Gonad Bomber" strikes.

Then come back and tell us about your stats.

Erbine you are quite the id... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Erbine you are quite the idiot and definitely you do not have anything in perspective. Politicians do not make me fearful, flying planes into buildings, killing unamed soldiers in camp, trying to blow up planes with bombs, but our president and the liberal left want to act as if nothing really bad happened. Who doesn't have the perspective? Putz. ww

"The odds of being on given... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

"The odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade."

So Erbine, according to your logic, the only people who should complain are the dead. Right?
Oh, wait, they can't! OH WELL, carry on. Nothing to see here. Business as usual. "The system worked".

Fucking idiot.

You're right for ONCE, Barr... (Below threshold)
Tammy:

You're right for ONCE, Barry. Now do us a favor and fire yourself.

"You're right for ONCE, ... (Below threshold)
914:

"You're right for ONCE, Barry. Now do us a favor and fire yourself."

He cant, He's under contract thru 2010 when His European UNION sock puppet masters will review & renegotiate His marxist performance.

"So Erbine, according to yo... (Below threshold)
Erbine:

"So Erbine, according to your logic, the only people who should complain are the dead. Right?"

Wrong. If you could read, Garandfan, you would know that I never said anything about who does and doesn't have the right to complain. You can complain all you want about anything you want. I said it's stupid to worry about being blown up by terrorists because the chances of that happening are astronomically low.

"Fucking idiot."

Yes. Yes you are.




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