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Napolitano Was Right

After Pants On Fire Guy tried to go all Grinch on Detroit's Christmas last week, President Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security was quick to comment that the "system" had not failed, that it had indeed worked in his case. Ms. Napolitano, using her keen political insight (and probably half-deafened by the gales of derisive laughter), later retracted the statement -- saying that "the system" that had let a guy with no passport, no baggage, a one-way ticket bought with cash, and a place on the no-fly list get on an American airliner bound for Detroit with a crotchful of boom had obviously failed in protecting us.

Actually, Napolitano was right the first time. But she was just too damned honest.

"The system," as the current administration runs it, did work precisely as intended. When the (probably now gelded, we can only hope) would-be bomber was identified and stopped, the federal government swept into action: he was arrested and hauled off the plane, stripped of his erstwhile explosive skivvies, and charged with plenty of criminal offenses.

And that is the real atrocity here. Not that the system failed -- but because it didn't. No, the real problem is that the system is being tasked with the wrong job.

Mr. "Acute Burning Sensation In What Used To Be My Loins" wasn't stopped by "the system." No, two things entirely outside the system conspired to turn him from a would-be Islamist martyr into an endless string of punchlines (this guy could end up eclipsing Monica Lewinsky in that area) were his own incompetence and a Flying Dutchman.

First up, the guy's bomb didn't work as intended. It's still not clear if it was poor design, operator error, or both (I'd put money on "both, plus more screwups we don't know about yet"), but it just didn't go well for this jerk. Instead of going out in a glorious explosion over Detroit (quick trivia question -- if a plane blew up and fell on Detroit, would anyone even notice any damage on the ground?), he instead had a real-life "pocket rocket" that probably made him a walking, talking Ken doll.

Next, it was an ordinary individual who jumped Martyr Ken, stripped him of his bomb, and helped restrain him for the authorities. And not even an American -- a Danish guy burned his own hands saving the plane.

There's something worth noting here. How many times have ordinary people -- not empowered with any kind of governmental sanction or authority -- averted major disasters? Jasper Schuringa, the passengers of Flight 93 on 9/11, Jeanne Assam, Liviu Librescu -- so many times it's people like them that end up saving the day. Hell, even the Fort Hood shooting and the Millennium Bomber were stopped not by highly-trained elites, but ordinary officers (two cops on traffic duty and a front-line Customs agent).

And not the thoroughly professional (you can tell because they're not only federal employees, but they're UNIONIZED too!) security experts who we're all supposed to trust.

One final note: once again, I am dismayed to find out that I am a prophet...


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Comments (27)

"And that is the real atroc... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"And that is the real atrocity here. Not that the system failed -- but because it didn't. No, the real problem is that the system is being tasked with the wrong job."


We had better start implementing some common sense, logical procedures and methods of screening; PC be damned. Like, gosh, looking at what factors these terrorists and bombers have in common, then giving people who share these factors a closer inspection.

Sure, EVERYBODY should go through basic screening, and some random close inspections should be done to help catch anything that falls through the cracks...but in addition we should also be able to find a way to predict who is more likely to be a bomber - and then give them extra scrutiny.
I suppose that won't happen until the next successful attack.

Anything Obama and his peop... (Below threshold)

Anything Obama and his people get involved with is screwed-up. God help us.

With the two examples of te... (Below threshold)

With the two examples of terrorism hitting our shores again proves the terrorists know as well as we do that Obama doesn't have the fortitude as GW did. The "man made disaster" people who practive a radicalized "religion of peace" Islam, Obama and his very inept administration doesn't have the balls to say what the problem really is. If they are so afraid to say what it really is, how can they even fight it? They cannot. ww

Government cannot take the ... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Government cannot take the place of individual action in order to protect people's lives.

Police are there to catch people after a crime has been committed. They are powerless to do anything before a crime actually occurs.

The government needs to stop trying to prevent citizens from taking responsible action and make it easier for them to do so. Terrorists thrive in environments where people are prevented from taking action against them. Such an environment magnifies their power and helps create the atmosphere of fear they desire.

As they say when seconds count, the police are just minutes away.

Just ask Kitty Genovese.

I heard an NPR interview th... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

I heard an NPR interview this afternoon with Michael Chertoff, the first DHS secretary under Bush. He stated unequivocally that profiling DOESN'T WORK, since the terrorists will simply vary the "types" they use as agents.

For instance, according to Chertoff, two of the "Shampoo Bombers" were a European-looking married couple traveling with a baby! Even this idiot that just failed to blow up Flight 253 gave no outward appearance of being a Muslim, at least just by looking at him. Richard Reid was a British citizen of Jamaican descent. The mokes in Miami were Haitian. And of course, the perpetrators of the worst terrorist attack in US history up until 9/11 were white Protestant Americans, so how would profiling Muslims have helped there?

All of these examples were offered in the interview by Chertoff, not me. You know Chertoff, the guy who "kept us safe" after 9/11.

b henry "Even this idi... (Below threshold)

b henry "Even this idiot that just failed to blow up Flight 253 gave no outward appearance of being a Muslim,"

Who needs outward appearances when you have a father notifying authorities? When you have an allied country placing him on their watch list or knowing full well he paid cash for a ticket, with no passport or luggage

I heard an NPR int... (Below threshold)
jim m:
I heard an NPR interview this afternoon with Michael Chertoff, the first DHS secretary under Bush. He stated unequivocally that profiling DOESN'T WORK, since the terrorists will simply vary the "types" they use as agents.

Wellin that case why don't we just surrender now? I'm certain that Churchill never said "there's no point in bombing he german railroad system, because they will just transport heir materials by truck!"

What a dumbass! Sure they can probably find other ways. MAKE THEM!!!!!! Just because they can do it doesn't mean that it's easy. It is our duty to make things difficult by closing off each avenue until they are destroyed.

Why do we tolerate sure crappy leadership?

Leave it to Brucy to get th... (Below threshold)

Leave it to Brucy to get the point wrong. Obama has made this country unsafe. He knows it. You can tell by the numerous statements he has given since this development. Each one getting tougher. You don't grow into toughness. You either are or are not. Obama doesn't have the fortitude to do what is needed. ww

Marc, you are right. His fa... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Marc, you are right. His father notified the authorities, and that should have been all she wrote. So that's not an argument for profiling.

And Jim, Chertoff was arguing against profiling because it DOESN'T WORK. If something doesn't work, and you devote a lot of man-hours to it, you are subtracting man-hours from something that DOES WORK. Even a Bush-appointed "dumbass" like Chertoff knows that. Why don't you?

b henry "And Jim, Cher... (Below threshold)

b henry "And Jim, Chertoff was arguing against profiling because it DOESN'T WORK. If something doesn't work,"

For the sake of argument lets agree it doesn't work. But I will say... it wouldn't hurt.

Let's say you b henry are accosted on a street corner and lost a wallet containing a thousand bucks.

The perp was a 5 foot 2 male of obvious foreign origin as noted by a heavy Asian accent, slightly olive skin tone and "slanted" eyes. He's wearing a dark brown jacket and dark colored pants.

However, the all points bulletin issued by the police describes the man as short and wearing a dark brown jacket and dark colored pants.

Nothing more and obviously because we can't have the police stopping every Asian, with "slanted" eyes and is 5 foot 2 inches tall.

What are the odds the perp will be caught?

Chertoff claimed that profi... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Chertoff claimed that profiling doesn't work because theoretically, if we clamp down on muslim males they could recruit African muslims. Once we clamp down on African muslims, they can switch to indonesian muslims. once we clamp down on them they can try white western converts and so on.

The point is that by profiling we are making them change their strategy. We take away a tool that they can use against us. If we just say that in theory they can do something different so we might as well not try then we are saying that the allies were stupid for bombing the railroads.

It doesn't matter if there is a way around an obstacle. By shutting off one avenue you make it easier to watch the others. By leaving every avenue open you have to watch them all and you simply cannot be successful that way.

The cowards amongst us (yes I mean you Bruce. You place yourself in that category by endorsing a pro-surrender attitude that we are discussing here) would have us not take action because there is a way to overcome it.

Advocating that profiling is not a complete solution so therefore we shouldn't do it is advocating for placing ourselves and our children under muslim tyranny for centuries to come.

Bruce, Profiling d... (Below threshold)
jim m:


Profiling doesn't take nearly as much time as scrutinizing 100% of all travelers. By concentrating on the most likely subjects we are more likely to catch them. If you lost a peanut in a barrel of flour do you spoon out the barrel until you find it? Or do you go and get a sifter and pour the flour through it?

Most people would get the sifter and get the job done in a fraction of the time. Profiling is using the sifter. You catch what you need and you don't bother with the rest. And yes, if they change tactics you change the profile. Trying to cope with 100% scrutiny is not possible. it's a fools errand and only fools buy into it.

Bruce, profiling alone won'... (Below threshold)

Bruce, profiling alone won't stop this bull shit, but ruling it out all together is assinine.
When I worked in retail security (no, not a mall cop, so no Paul Blart cracks) I learned there were plenty of perps that didn't fit the profile/stereotype, but almost all fit the behaivor profiles. If we ignored the folks that were behaiving oddly (like the boxer bomber was) because they looked a certain way I would have had many fewer busts. JUst like I would have if I spent my time looking at too many people that fit no profile at all (aka, random).

Question: Has any terrorist or similar nogoodnik been caught as part of the random checks at the airports?

"All of these examples were... (Below threshold)

"All of these examples were offered in the interview by Chertoff, not me."

Yeah, Brucie, a real 'gem' to quote. Another sterling example of an individual put into a position he was unsuited to fill. The guy who gave us a colored coded 'threat level' chart that means nothing.

Exit question: El Al profiles. How come they don't seem to find those terrorists who 'modify' their tactics?

Hey maybe Bruce is right th... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Hey maybe Bruce is right that profiling doesn't work. But then that's only because the weak kneed cowards in State refuse to actually do it.

GarandFan you make a great point. When was the last time an El Al airliner was hijacked or otherwise bombed? The only successful hijack on an El Al plane was 1970. They must be doing something right. Or is Bruce afraid of taking a lesson from the Joos?

I dunno Jim, it takes some ... (Below threshold)

I dunno Jim, it takes some pretty strong knees to spend alot of time on them. Ask any serious Catholic or pornstar.

Jim, you extrapolate from m... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Jim, you extrapolate from me quoting Chertoff saying profiling doesn't work, to me "endorsing a pro-surrender attitude." Quite a stretch, but you needed it in order to call me a coward. I won't indulge in name-calling here, but there is a name for people who put words in other people's mouths.

In work, politics, and life, I have found that what SOUNDS like the simplest solution is quite often not the best solution.

Ask yourself this: are these terrorists completely stupid? What are the chances they are going to try smuggling a bomb on a plane using a 30 year old bearded, Koran-spouting Beduoin in full Arab garb? Come on, guys! Get ahold of yourselves! (Sorry, I just giggled thinking of the scene in "Airplane" when the passengers line up to slap the hysterical woman.)

Give the hard-eyed realists in the Bush administration some credit. They, being the tough-minded John Wayne types they are, decided not to waste time on profiling. If those paragons of competence thought profiling was a losing proposition, surely the incompetent hacks in the new administration shouldn't do it either.

No no no, dont look at the ... (Below threshold)

No no no, dont look at the obvious threat. Continue patting down old ladies, teeny boppers and young white men. Ignore the elephant in the room and watch another 911 or worse unfold.

Nice straw man Bruce. The ... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Nice straw man Bruce. The terrorists are using young, 20's-30's middle eastern or north african men for the most part. They are not caricatures of muslim imams, but they are not that difficult to profile.

Your so-called hard eyed realists were also handcuffed by the same PC culture that saturates DC today.

If profiling doesn't work then why does the FBI employ it to catch serial killers? Because the profile is for a white male? Profiling is OK and it works when the target is White? Explain here how you aren't being a racist.

Profiling works when it is actually employed. Explain here why it works for El Al Airlines (yes they do more on top of that, but they still profile)

The only reason for not trying is PC foolishness. With limited resources (we would both agree that resources are limited) it only makes sense to use whatever tools are available to focus our efforts for he biggest gain.

Again, I do not claim that profiling is a panacea, rather that it helps to close off one avenue after which we can then start focusing on the next avenue of opportunity.

Saying that profiling doesn't work runs counter to the real world evidence that it does (FBI and El Al airlines) and is frequently done by PC fools advocating doing nothing. Such fools are cowards. I would entertain listening how it is that 1) the organizations who use profiling are only getting lucky and 2) how it is that spreading our efforts as thinly as possible is not really an exercise in avoiding the reality of having to take positive action (ie cowardice).

JT, you owe me a new laptop... (Below threshold)

JT, you owe me a new laptop.

Your update on the "tree falling in the forest" a la Detroit has caused major damage here in the rainy NW. I just hope my AppleCare covers such events.

b henry "Give the har... (Below threshold)

b henry "Give the hard-eyed realists in the Bush administration some credit. They, being the tough-minded John Wayne types they are, decided not to waste time on profiling."

They get no credit for buckling under threats from all the ACLU types that scream loud if profiling is discussed let alone implemented.

And BTW, no comment on my scenario where you lost a thousand bucks?

No worries, I didn't expect one.

I've put the guy up for con... (Below threshold)

I've put the guy up for consideration for the Darwin award. He won't win because he survived. But maybe he'll be a runner up.

I thought it was survival o... (Below threshold)
Newton White:

I thought it was survival of one's genes that disqualified one from the Darwin award. This idiot may still qualify since he apparently "let the smoke out."

Excellent point, Newton.</p... (Below threshold)

Excellent point, Newton.

Jim, read the comment # 13 ... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Jim, read the comment # 13 from SCSIWuzzy. I have no problem with behavior profiling. And again, I was quoting Chertoff, not making any assertions myself.

Also, the article that's been posted here at Wizbang since this discussion started, about how El Al handles security, seems really helpful to me. I wonder why those policies weren't adopted in 2001? I mean, what would the ACLU have to protest about if those policies were implemented? (BTW, I think conservatives give groups like the ACLU and ACORN too much credit. They're not all-powerful masterminds, just two interest groups among many. But that's for another thread.)

Also, the article ... (Below threshold)
Also, the article that's been posted here at Wizbang since this discussion started, about how El Al handles security, seems really helpful to me. I wonder why those policies weren't adopted in 2001?

Because George Bush's transportation secretary, Norman Mineta, under whose province airport security was at that time, was adamantly opposed to any kind of profiling, no matter what it was.

When he was a little boy, Mineta and his family were rounded up and put in the Japanese internment camps, so he was naturally a bit sensitive on the subject of profiling. Which was unfortunate. Bush should have realized this and asked him to step down.

And while I'm no lawyer, I believe the ACLU can and would whip some some sort of "discrimination" lawsuit if behavior profiling were implemented.

I dunno, maybe it's just me... (Below threshold)

I dunno, maybe it's just me, but I have a problem with a conservative -- or anyone -- saying Napolitano was right. Yes, you explain how unflattering that really is when fully considered, but in a war of propaganda, you lose because no one is going to fully consider your article that isn't already on board.

You also call the terrorist a 'jerk', which is too unserious.






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