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Memo From Middle America (Formerly Known As Memo From Mexico) | Ten Years After 9/11—Can We Have Israel-Style Airport Security Profiling Now, Please?
The tenth anniversary of 9/11 was the occasion for all sorts of commemorations. 9/11 did change our country in several ways, though not the ways we would have wanted. For one thing, Americans rallied to the flag—ensuring the re-election of George W. Bush.
In October of 2005, I flew back from Iraq for my two-week leave. And both en route to and en route back to Iraq—with my uniform on each time—I went through all the rigmarole of being searched in the airport.
So here I was, deployed to the Middle East as part of the U.S. Army, and I was considered as much of a terror threat as a Muslim Jihadist.
And yet, amidst all the hoopla, have we really learned anything that makes our country safer?
The 9/11 attacks were carried out by a group of Muslim Arab immigrants. One would think that, in response to their attack, the United States would (1) tighten up our immigration system, and (2) be on our guard against Islamic activity in our country.[VDARE.com note:See Identity and Immigration Status of 9/11 Terrorists, on FAIR's website. For those who occasionally protest that the 19 terrorists weren't really immigrants, may we point out that as suicide terrorists, they planned to stay for the rest of their lives.]
Of course, the exact opposite has been true.
Our immigration system hasn’t gotten tighter. We’re still moving towards an open border.
Regarding Muslim terrorism, we’re constantly lectured that Islam is not a cause of the problem as we continue to import about 100,000 Muslims annually—increasing the chances of further terrorism).
Bush-boosters blamed 9/11 on Bill Clinton, who had left office at the beginning of 2001. Certainly, there are plenty of things we can blame Clinton for. However, when it comes to not profiling Arabs, Bush is the one to blame.
So how’d that work out for us on September 11, 2001?
Profiling nowadays has a very bad reputation. But if properly conducted, profiling is a very effective security practice—and, in fact, is the essence of actuarial science that makes the insurance business possible. It’s a simply way of using resources to study and apply patterns, to tell us what kinds of persons we need to look out for.
It’s not just about paying extra attention to Muslims. It’s paying attention to a suspect’s behavior, to his associates, to his past, to what he has actually said and done.
Consider the chilling testimony of Michael Tuohey, the ticket agent who checked in Muhammed Atta, ringleader of the 9/11 terrorist mass murderers, on that fateful day:
“Michael Tuohey … said he was suspicious of Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari when they rushed through the Portland [Maine] International Jetport to make their flight to Boston that day. Atta’s demeanor and the pair’s first-class, one-way tickets to Los Angeles made Tuohey think twice about them.
So Tuohey thought twice about them. But, as he explained:
“'I said to myself, "If this guy doesn’t look like an Arab terrorist, then nothing does." Then I gave myself a mental slap, because in this day and age, it’s not nice to say things like this,' Tuohey told the Maine Sunday Telegram. 'You’ve checked in hundreds of Arabs and Hindus and Sikhs, and you’ve never done that.
" 'I felt kind of embarrassed.'”
“Embarrassed”? Notice Tuohey doesn’t say he’s embarrassed, ashamed, or mortified that he let Atta on the plane and thousands died. No, he’s “embarrassed” because he thought Atta was an Arab terrorist. But Atta was an Arab terrorist! (Photo of Atta here).
Profiling is not just considering a person’s race or appearance. It also takes into account his behavior:
“Tuohey said Atta became angry when he was told he would have to check in again before boarding his flight out of Boston. “He looks at me and says, ’I thought there was one-step check-in ... They told me one-step check-in,”’ Tuohey said. “I looked in this guy’s eyes, and he just looked angry.
I just got an uncomfortable feeling.” Ticket Agent Recalls Anger in Atta’s Eyes, Associated Press, March 7, 2005
Then there’s Norman Mineta, Bush’s Transportation Secretary. Shouldn’t he have tendered his resignation immediately after 9/11? But no, Mineta stayed at his post and became more powerful than ever. Even after 9/11, Mineta instructed the Transportation department not to profile, and he even went after airlines that did.
Mineta is a Japanese –American, born in 1931. During World War II he and his family were interned in an internment camp in Wyoming.
In an interview with Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes, Mineta made his principles clear:
“ Kroft: Are you saying, at security screening desks, that a 70-year-old white woman from Vero Beach, Florida, would receive the same level of scrutiny as a-a-a Muslim young man from Jersey City?
Mineta: Basically, I would hope so. [The Curse of Norm Mineta, Michelle Malkin, December 9, 2004]
Mineta left his post in 2006. But his principles have remained in force, until we reach the point when the TSA regime isn’t supposed to profile Muslims, but can harass anybody else it wants. Are we safer?
Now, the surveillance in our airports is more intrusive, including naked scanners and groping of unlikely terror suspects, but we’re still not supposed to profile Muslims.
Once again, are we safer?
Those who answer in the affirmative would say that, after all, we haven’t had a 9/11 scale attack in the past decade.
We have, however, had a lot of close calls. And they ‘re increasing.
As Walid Phares reported, in November of 2010:
“Throughout the summer and fall [of 2010], U.S. authorities witnessed a significant rise in jihadist activity, using increasingly sophisticated operational strategies. According to open-source reports, between 2001 and 2008, U.S. agencies stopped one or two terror attempts a year. However, from 2009 until today [November of 2010], the government has been uncovering one or two cases a month, a troubling growth in jihadi activities.” [The Ashburn jihadist signals a greater danger, Washington Times, November 5, 2010]
It’s fair to point out too, that there are probably things the public doesn’t know, possibly plots that have been thwarted without any publicity. There are competent and conscientious U.S. agents who are working hard to protect us. It’s not their fault that their leaders are beholden to an ideology that can’t be sustainable in the long run. It’s the leaders and their no-profiling ideology who set the policy.
Now, how about big plots against airliners, along the lines of 9/11?
There have been several of those foiled since 2001, but not by the TSA, the Transportation Security Administration, founded in November of 2001 (two months after 9/11) and tasked with protecting travelers in the U.S.
Consider these high-profile cases:
- The Shoe Bomb Plot, in December 2001.
Muslim terrorist Richard Reid attempted to detonate an explosive in his shoe on American Airlines Flight 63. Reid’s actions were discovered not by the government, but by a stewardess. Reid was subdued not by government agents, but by passengers. Thanks to Reid we now have to take off our shoes at the airport.
- The Transatlantic Aircraft Plot in 2006.
The plan here was to use liquid explosives to bring down at least ten airplanes en route from Britain to North America. This plot was discovered not by Americans, but by the British police. Thanks to this plot, the bearing of liquids by passengers is now restricted.
- The Underwear Bomber, in 2009.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, flying from Amsterdam to Detroit on Northwest Airlines Flight 253, attempted to detonate an explosive attached to his underwear. The Underwear Bomber was not stopped or discovered by U.S. government agents but by Jasper Schuringa, a Dutch movie director who was riding the same aircraft. The heroic Schuringa discovered the attempt, removed the explosive (incurring burns to his own hands in doing so), subdued the terrorist, hauled him to the front of the plane where he searched him and turned him over to the crew.
- The Cargo Planes Bomb Plot, in 2010.
This one also involved Anchor Baby Terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki—and was reported to us by the Saudi government!
Notice that none of these four high-profile attempts were discovered by the TSA or any U.S. government agency.
On Slate, Juliet Lapidos recently asked the question, Does the TSA Ever Catch Terrorists? (November 18, 2010), and concluded there’s no proof that the TSA has. In 2007, undercover agents tested the TSA by smuggling fake bombs through the system to see if they could get away with it. Overall, 60% of the fake bombs were not detected by the TSA. (Test Bombs Get By Federal Airport Screeners, Judicial Watch, Oct. 29, 2007).
Of course, 2007 was before the naked scanner and the use of more invasive procedures were introduced last year. They can’t profile Muslims or Middle Easterners, but there are shocking stories of invasive treatment of children and the elderly, among others.
One problem is that screeners are obsessed with finding weapons, not terrorists. Thus we have restrictions on things like nail clippers.
But for a determined terrorist, anything can be a weapon. If you are obsessed with finding weapons, you may miss the terrorist. Notice the variety of explosives used in the plots mentioned above.
Is there a better way to run airport security? Why don’t we adopt the Israeli system?
Israel has the best airport security system in the world. The Israelis aren’t afraid to profile, and yet they don’t have to resort to taking naked pictures of people. Passengers must pass through three concentric security rings. Officials do routine questioning to pick up cues, and they look passengers in the eye. When it’s all said and done, they only wind up subjecting 2-5% of passengers to extra screening.
The results speak for themselves. There hasn’t been a terrorist attack at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport since 1972. The attack that year was terrible—but the Israelis learned from it and put together their current security system. See What’s so Great About Israeli Security? By Brian Palmer, Slate, January 3, 2011)
Why can’t we adopt an Israeli system? Well, for one thing, Bill Kristol doesn’t want to. He nixed the idea on a Fox news program.
In the current climate, an Israeli-style program would be rejected because it would profile Muslims.
Furthermore it requires qualified and intelligent personnel—not Affirmative Action recipients, which would be a problem.
But this is no reason we shouldn’t demand such a system. How about putting your congressman and senators on the spot? Ask why we can’t institute a system that has proven itself effective in protecting passengers.
If we truly wish to honor the fallen heroes of 9/11 we should adopt security measures designed to protect our people—not to satisfy suicidal multiculturalist dogma.
That’s what we really ought to have learned from 9/11.
A decade later, it’s time.
American citizen Allan Wall (email him) recently moved back to the U.S.A. after many years residing in Mexico. In 2005, Allan served a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his Mexidata.info articles are archived here; his News With Views columns are archived here; and his website is here.