"No Smoking Gun"? What About Detroit Bomber's Profile?

We have it on the authority of John Brennan, Obama Administrationcounterterrorism advisor appearing on the Fox TV network today, that there was "no smoking gun" that should have alerted US intelligence agencies to the attempted Christmas Day suicide attack. [Security adviser: No smoking gun to stop attack, By John Amick and T. Rees Shapiro,Washington Post, January 3, 2010].

So that's OK, then!

I mean, who could have guessed?

Who could have imagined that somebody named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab would try to blow up a plane headed to Detroit on Christmas Day?

And how could we expect airline security to notice Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was smuggling a bomb onto the plane when there were all those grandmothers and little children to search?

Who could possibly have known?

I mean, besides his dad, the chairman of the board of one of Nigeria's biggest banks, who told the U.S. embassy in Lagos on November 19 to watch out for his Muslim radical son.

I'm not sure I want to know how the Underwear Bomber's father made his fortune. But, clearly, he's the kind of man who should be taken seriously when warning about his own son's extremism.

Two days after terrorism attempt, Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano told ABC News, the "system has worked really very, very smoothly". 

Two points stand out:

  • More than eight years after 9/11, we still don't have an effective computer system for tracking potential terrorists trying to board airplanes.

(Recall how President Obama has been boasting for a year about how his administration is going to cut medical spending by spearheading a computer system to track all your health information. What's your over-under date on when that gets finished? I've got dibs on 2033.)

  • It's increasingly obvious that neither Bush nor Obama haswanted an effective airport security system.

Effective security would impose a "disparate impact" on guys with names like "Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab" (or, for that matter, "Barack Hussein Obama"). Both Presidents actively worked against profiling and disparate impact. Why? Because noticing patterns is just plain wrong.

Stupidity is our strength!

Since September 11, 2001, whenever somebody with a name like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab commits terrorism, I've been writing virtually the same article about the American ruling class's pathological prejudice against profiling. (See for example Bush's Racial Profiling Guidelines Could Be Worse – And May Well Be and The One Word Grand Strategy for Westerners and Muslims: "Disconnect".)

How big a calamity is it going to take to make them wake up, stop randomly dissipating prevention efforts, and instead focus on those most likely to commit terrorism?

For example, look at this typically hysterical reaction to retired Lt. General Thomas McInerney's recent  advocacy of profiling: Former Lt. General "Goes There": Calls for all Muslim men between 18-28 to be strip searched, by Joseph Marhee, Examiner, January 3, 2010.("McInerney is deliberately using inflammatory and incendiary proclamations to incite hostilities. It is simply unacceptable and irresponsible for someone of his public profile to advocate such blatantly unconstitutional and socially dangerous rhetoric into the mainstream." Yawn).

In contrast, naïve Nigerians have tended to assume that of course their countryman's shame will bring more suspicion and searches down upon themselves. Thus Nigerian vice president Goodluck Jonathan lamented:

"A Nigerian has created an additional problem for us by wanting to blow up an aircraft … That means that those Nigerians who travel out of this country will be subjected to unnecessary harassments and searches."

How unworldly Goodluck Jonathan is! Apparently, he isn't aware that in 21st century America, it's consideredshameful to notice such patterns. Learning from the past is simply inappropriate.

Instead, the MainStream Media rushed to fret over the real danger: backlash.

As you'll recall, in November, General George Casey's response to Major Nidal Malik Hasan shooting up Fort Hood was: "Our diversity, not only in our Army, but in our country, is a strength. And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that's worse."

Similarly, after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's arrest, the New York Times headlined 'Shocked' Nigerians in U.S. Express Fears of Guilt by Association After Arrest. (By Mary M. Chapman, December 29, 2009).

Nothing ever changes.

On the evening of 9/11, I wrote an article entitled Bush Had Called for Laxer Airport Security, pointing out that President George W. Bush, in an effort to win Arab and Muslim voters in (ironically) the Detroit area, had denounced profiling during his second debate with Al Gore in 2000. In 2001, Bush's Transportation Secretary,"Underperformin' Norman" Mineta, ran a national disparate impact study to make sure airport and airline employees had gotten the messagenot pay more attention to Muslims and/or Arabs.

In 2005, we finally learned that the clerk who checked in terrorist ringleader Mohammed Atta for his first flight on 9/11 admitted:

"I got an instant chill when I looked at [Atta]. I got this grip in my stomach and then, of course, I gave myself a political correct slap."["I Was The One," Interview with Oprah Winfrey, September 12, 2005]

Has any official ever been held accountable for security lapses? Did anybody else even criticize the President of the United States for having worked against airline safety?

Republicans won't do it because Bush is a Republican. And Democrats wouldn't do it because their brains would implode if they ever stopped to notice how much Bush shared their values.

Instead, we've submitted to a truly mindless system of random airport security spasms.

For example, in 2002, Joe Foss, an 86-year-old retired brigadier general and former governor of South Dakota, was on his way to give a speech to the cadets at West Point, when he was subjected to 45 minutes of interrogation because he was carrying a suspiciously pointy object onto an airplane: his Congressional Medal of Honor.

We're constantly told by people who think they are sophisticates that profiling can't possibly work. If we start concentrating our efforts on people named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, then Al-Qaeda will obviously just go out and recruit as suicide bombers 86-year-old Medal of Honor winners. It's simple logic!

The government's initial response to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was in the same tradition of inanity: ban passengers from going to the bathroom for the last hour of the flight. Nobody is allowed to devote additional attention to people with names like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab—but you can push around the weak-bladdered all you want. They aren't a protected minority.

The government's last-hour ban was particularly stupid because a hole blown in a fuselage at low altitude and low speed would be less dangerous to passengers than the same explosion at 35,000 feet and 600 mph, when the air pressure inside the cabin might rip the hole wider.

The ideal place to bring down an airplane with a small explosive is not while approaching a runway, but over the ocean where there's no place for an emergency landing. (Think of the Air France flight that disappeared June 1, 2009 in the middle of the Atlantic.)

The Administration presumably assumed that locking passengers in their seats for the last hour would prevent Al-Qaeda from using a damaged jetliner as an unguided missile. Yet plane crashes in urban areas typically kill just a few people on the ground—population densities just aren't that high for unguided missiles to do much damage. For example, the February 12, 2009 crash of a Continental Connection flight in a residential area near Buffalo killed all 49 people on the plane and one person the ground.

Remember the scene in The Aviator in which Howard Hughes wipes out a block of houses in Beverly Hills on a test flight? That horrific 1946 crash didn't kill anybody.

Moreover, planes are most dangerous to passengers on the ground not when they are landing, but right after they've taken off and are still full of fuel. (Jet fuel fires are what pancaked the Twin Towers.)

Locking the lavatories was such an obvious dumb idea that the Administration reversed itself and decided to leave the ban up to the pilots.

Here's a better idea: Let the captain of each airliner profile the passengers.

Before he backs away from the gate, the pilot should walk the length of the aisle. Any shifty-eyed character whom the captain doesn't like the looks of, off he goes.

(Somewhat similarly, banks have cut down on robberies lately by having employees greet everybody who walks in off the street. Eye contact demoralizes and dissuades bad guys.)

The media is instead debating whether every passenger should be given a full body X-ray scan at each airline gate—because scanning only people with names like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab would be worse than airliners falling out of the sky. Personally, having had a few dozen CT and MRI scans during my battle withcancer a decade ago, I don't want many more. If I were a woman who was pregnant in the first trimester, Idefinitely wouldn't want any more.

Here's another better, cheaper and safer. idea: dogs. You can train dogs to sniff out explosives. (Indeed, the dogs that are the most trainable can be mated to create a new breed, the way, say, the remarkable Newfoundland was developed to save drowning sailors.)

Still, we would never ever post sniffing dogs at airports because that would be culturally insensitive: most Muslims consider dogs to be ritually impure. (Consider what else dogs sniff.)

What's that? Discouraging fanatical Muslims from flying to America strikes you as an advantage, not a detriment, of the dog system?

Well, that just shows that you are a bad, bad person—who uses his brain.

[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.comfeatures his daily blog. His new book, AMERICA'S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA'S "STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE", is available here.]