Monday, May 10, 2010

More Homeland (in)Security

In a report on Yahoo News, EILEEN SULLIVAN and MATT APUZZO of the Associated press tell us why Faisal Shahzad was almost able to leave the country by plane after his alleged failed bombing attempt. It's a sad statement that just four months after dumb luck kept the crotchbomber from blowing himself and his fellow passengers out of the sky in a plane he shouldn't have been able to board, dumb luck again prevents a terrorist wannabe from igniting his bomb - and in this instance, escaping by boarding a plane he should never have been able to board.

This sad statement on U.S. security reminded me of an almost 4 year old blog post by Bruce Schneier on the arrests in July, 2006 of terrorists reportedly hoping to set off a so-called "binary explosive" - something apparently extremely difficult to do. Regardless of the likelihood of that scenario, Mr. Schneier makes some very good points:

"None of the airplane security measures implemented because of 9/11 -- no-fly lists, secondary screening, prohibitions against pocket knives and corkscrews -- had anything to do with last week's arrests. And they wouldn't have prevented the planned attacks, had the terrorists not been arrested. A national ID card wouldn't have made a difference, either.

Instead, the arrests are a victory for old-fashioned intelligence and investigation. Details are still secret, but police in at least two countries were watching the terrorists for a long time. They followed leads, figured out who was talking to whom, and slowly pieced together both the network and the plot."


Last Christmas's intelligence fiasco points out the same thing. In 2001 we had a massive intelligence failure - all the pieces were there, but inter-agency, even intra-agency, rivalry prevented the all the pieces being gathered to be put together. In December 2009 all the pieces were there, but were ignored, or not communicated in a timely manner. In the two incidents of the last 6 months the terrorist boarded an international flight despite being on the no-fly list. All of this shows that we don't need more ways for the government to monitor and spy on us. Adding new ways to gather information so it can be misused - or not used at all - is not an answer. We need to make proper use of the methods we already have in place. Then we can know what is working and what needs changing.