They're at it Again
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Jan 03, 2011
Seldom when the federal government speaks do
I believe what I hear. Officials brought this distrust
upon themselves through years of pulling
our collective leg on issues that affect the American
public, or when they’ve failed to issue information
that concerns us, the citizenry.
For once, though, the Transportation Security Administration
is being true to its promise: TSA is deploying
backscatter X-ray systems to screen airplane
passengers as though they were naked. When fliers
object to the low-dose radiation search, they are effectively
opting for a physical pat-down.
I’ve had one of those infamous pat-downs, and it’s
more like a grizzly bear searching for a pot of honey
than a security agent looking for contraband. It was a
very physical search.
Realize, however, that TSA probably got caught
with its pants down, again, and now it has to prove
it takes security seriously. It’s been in this position before,
and I’m sure it’s not comfortable.
“Following the thwarted terrorist plot last week, to
conceal and ship explosive devices on board aircraft
bound for the United States, the administration took
a number of immediate steps to increase security by
tightening existing measures related to cargo bound
for the United States,” read a Nov. 8 statement from
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
I’m all about security, and I appreciate that airplanes
are pretty secure these days. But cartoonists
have rightly had their fun with TSA because let’s
face it: After Richard Reid tried to blow up a plane
with his shoes, we all had to take off our shoes for examination.
Then came the Detroit-bound underwear
bomber, and now we are being screened through lowdose
X-ray machines as though we weren’t wearing
any underwear. Before you know it, a full strip-search
might be required. Terrorists continue to innovate and
adapt, and who knows what they will think of next?
I wonder if TSA ever catches any terrorists.
It’s really hard to say. TSA will not provide any
comprehensive data covering the nine years of its existence,
though it does share some success stories. For
instance, several years ago at the Dallas/Fort Worth
International Airport, it would seem that then Dallas
Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer “forgot” about a
handgun in his carry-on luggage. Yes, that made all
the papers, radio and TV news programs. He probably
is not a terrorist, but carrying a gun onboard an
airplane, no matter who you are, just isn’t right.
TSA also implemented a behavioral detection program
known as SPOT (Screening of Passengers by
Observational Techniques). This initiative has been
soundly criticized, and in May 2010, the Government
Accountability Office released a report saying that
despite the more than $200 million annual price tag,
not a single apprehension had occurred. Another
GAO report stated that 16 people later accused of
terrorist involvement and plots had flown 23 different
times through U.S. airports since 2004, but TSA
failed to pick up a single one.
Up to this point, Americans have gone along with
everything: the shoes, coats and belt buckles. Yes,
there have been annoyances and inconveniences, but
people have not taken them as a personal affront. The
difference now is the public viewing of images of passengers’
Meanwhile, the government also finds itself in yet
another insecure mess as WikiLeaks has outed more
than 250,000 classified diplomatic cables from the
State Department. Kind of makes me wonder who’s
minding the store while the leadership, such as it is, is
out gallivanting about the globe. The Obama administration
is in full damage-control mode. The White
House has condemned the release by WikiLeaks,
saying U.S. informants abroad could be endangered.
This unauthorized release of information squarely
lies on the shoulders of the administration, and it
would seem to me that the Obama White House can’t
be trusted with state secrets, or more importantly,
with securing them.
The leaks have proven rather embarrassing to the
White House, as some communiqués provide candid
and, at times, critical views of foreign leaders, as well
as sensitive information filed by U.S. diplomats on
terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
Federal agencies now have been told to establish
security assessment teams to ensure that employees
do not have broader than necessary access to classified
information. I would have thought this surely
would have been in place before now.
Among the leaked cables, according to the U.K.
newspaper The Guardian, are reports of calls from
said officials in Jordan and Bahrain, calling for Iran’s
nuclear program to be stopped by any means, and of
leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates
and Egypt referring to Iran “as ‘evil,’ an ‘existential
threat’ and a power that ‘is going to take us to war.’”
“The catastrophic issue here is just a breakdown
in trust,” said Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), ranking
member of the House Intelligence Committee.
“Many other countries -- allies and foes alike -- are
likely to ask, ‘Can the United States be trusted? Can
the United States keep a secret?’”
I think it’s time to strip-search the administration
and do a thorough security screening.
This article originally appeared in the January 2011 issue of Security Today.