December 29, 2001

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AIRPORT SCREENERS ARE SUPPOSED TO GET BETTER but not it if it means actually raising their employment standards, according to this article. The DoT will not require new hires be high school grads, so that about the quarter of present screeners without diplomas can keep their jobs. And how, exactly, does making sure to keep present screeners enhance security. Proof, again, that federalizing them makes no difference to the quality of screeners we'll get. In fact, once they figure out that federal workers are nearly impossible to fire, it's likely to make them worse. Thanks, Senate Democrats the the Senate Republicans who caved for them.
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December 28, 2001

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WHY I'M GLAD ROBERT FISK WRITES SUCH DRIVEL:Tim Blair will take him down. Tim, you'd make a good English teacher.
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WORLD IN FLAMES: Well, sparking up anyway, in Pakistan-India, where two nuclear powers are eyeball-to-eyeball over Kashmir, and in South America, where economics and the drug trade have intersected to take Colombia and maybe Argentina into Lord of the Flies scenarios. It's perhaps important to note at this point that none of this is the direct fault of the US or its policies. India and Pakistan have been bound for a fight for decades, both sides simply needing an excuse to get to it. Argentina dug its own hole, and Colombia, well, Colombia does suffer from US' cravings for illicit drugs and the drug war in general, but its historic flirtation with Marxism, faux-theocracy and corrupt statism predate both the drug trade and war, and those historic tendencies have played major roles in Colombia's descent.

I'm personally far more uneasy about the Asian situation. India and Pakistan share a mutual, visceral hatred across their border, and China seems to be the cat watching two mice fighting each other between its paws. All three of course possess nukes, and it isn't difficut to imagine either India or Pakistan using them if their battlefield situations reach critical stages. Ironically, China may be the lid on the pressure cooker. The PRC is the power in the neighborhood, and may end up stepping in if Pakistan nears destruction. And just to make things more interesting, Russia's long-standing relationship with India, weakened by the fall of the USSR but still alive thanks to Russia's mistrust of China and Pakistan, may play a role if India somehow finds itself overrun. The oddsmaker in me says the US, as in Colin Powell et al, will find a way to prevent an all-out war here, at least in the short term. The Terror War is simply too important to our own interests and the interests of liberty itself to allow regional disputes to crowd it out. India and Pakistan are both vital in our war, and both have acted on our side to date. It's the first time since partitioning that both have been on the same side of any argument. Here's hoping our administration, which has kept things from getting out of control brilliantly to date, can keep a lid on the Kashmir question. It won't be an easy thing to do, and success almost demands a Nobel for the architect of whichever plan eventually works, but it's vital.

MORE DETAILS about the tennis shoe terrorist have emerged, and the guy is British. He's been linked to mosques, to the "20th hijacker" from Sept 11, and possibly even to UBL himself. He also seems to be a bit of a dim bulb, hence not a lone bomber, and probably a test mule that failed. The terrorists will try something else, perhaps an explosive hidden in a fake cell phone, and will eventually succeed in blowing up another plane unless we get smart about stopping them. I can think of a few things we have to do, asap:
1) bring in the sniffers. Sniffers, as the name implies, "smell" explosives and explosive residue. Whether you use electronic sniffers, which are available, or old-fashion canine sniffers, we've got to start deploying them. Shoe searches are a waste of time and an irritant--sniffers will eventually make them obsolete.
2) profile passengers, by nationality, destination, address of record, baggage, etc. I know, I know, "profiling is racist/won't work/isn't fair/etc." When the FBI searches for a serial killer in a neighborhood, they profile that killer based on the victims, locations of the killings, weapons used, etc. Serial killers tend to be white men, from mid-20's to mid-50's, single, employed, solitary--when a serial killer begins a rampage, the FBI works from that basic profile as it builds evidence based on the specific crimes involved. That profiling system isn't perfect, as there are exceptions to the basic profile, but it helps provide a direction to the search. In the same way, male travellers from 18 to mid-40's with Arab surnames travelling alone and with little or no baggage stand a much greater chance of trying to blow up a plane than an 80 year-old grandmother from Duluth named Jackson who has checked excess baggage and is travelling with her great-grandson, yet under the present search system she's just as likely to be searched as everyone else, including Mohammed Atta or any of the other 9-11 killers. Tell me that makes sense to you. Yes, the tennis shoe terrorist is an exception in that he's British, but he's still young, still male, travelled one-way without baggage, and was still sufficiently suspiscious to arouse French authorities the day before his in-flight takedown. Profiling won't be perfect and will not be pleasant for anyone, but these terrorists are foot soldiers for a ruthless enemy. We're going to have to be ruthless to stop them.
3) change the rules of engagement. Passengers should be briefed on how to kick a terrorist's butt, flight crews should be trained to resist at all costs any attempt to commandeer the plane. Flight crews are probably already getting that briefing, but passengers aren't. The next terrorist will probably be a little smarter than shoe boy, and it may take a little more ingenuity to take him down.
4) arm the pilots. Give the flight crew a gun that can be used to end a terrorist's career early. The airlines won't like it, their insurers won't like it, and Congress doesn't like it, but the pilots want it and should have it.
5) keep killing terrorists wherever they hide and train, and make vivid examples of states that support them. The best defense is a good offense, and Afghanistan has proven that the USA has a darn good offense. Let's keep it on the field.
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December 26, 2001

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WRONG-ABOUT-THE-WAR ROUNDUP: Here's a nice little piece detailing how a few prominent lefty journalists were so wrong about the war. I love the excuses a couple of them give. Here's NPR's Daniel Schorr:
Take PBS's Dan Schorr for example. Just six days after the U.S. increased its air attacks on the Taliban defenses the old liberal advocate pontificated that "This is a war in trouble," during the PBS "Weekend Edition" show on October 27.

That was then. Now he's trying to explain his goof. Schorr told the Wall Street Journal's Matthew Rose "I had to eat a little crow. I have never been in Afghanistan and know nothing about Pashtuns and the rest of it."

Thanks to for putting this article together. It's worth dusting off next time one of these blowhards pontificates about taxes, gun control or anything else.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 25, 2001

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I don't know what, if anything, this has to do with terrorism, but it's pretty spooky: a famed scientist, known for his study of Ebola, has apparently turned up dead after going missing on Nov 15th. Call in Dirk Gently...
Posted by B. Preston at 03:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 24, 2001

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AIRPORT INSECURITY: So it turns out that the rube on American Airlines Flight 63 has a name, and it's Tariq Raja. He had C-4 in his shoe, which he tried to light. That got him noticed and subdued, thanks to quick-thinking and acting flight attendants and passengers.

Now, we'll be subjected to shoe searches along with all the other inane questioning and carrying on that takes place in line at the airport. It occurs to me that, though the military is always accused of "fighting the last war," it's the FAA that's guilty here. Yes, Raj slipped past French security in this case (isn't that an oxymoron--"French security"), though he'd have likely slipped past US airport security as well. Will the next terrorist use the heel of his shoe, as did Raj, or might he stuff the C-4 somewhere else? His jacket pocket, or strapped to his leg, or even in other less mentionable places, would all work just as well as the shoe. But we'll wait to solve those problems until someone actually tries it.

Our military hasn't "fought the last war" in Afghanistan--in fact, it has fought a war so thoroughly modern and unlike any previous war that the punditry's collective head is still spinning. Our Air Force, Army Navy and Marines looked like aliens from space compared to their Taliban enemy, thanks to superior firepower and positively brilliant tactics and planning. The FAA had better adjust its thinking similarly, less the next would-be terrorist use a less obvious fuse (the guy on AA63 tried to light the darn thing with matches!) and succeed.

Of course, in its pursuit to make air travel safe and palatable again, the FAA is staring past the elephant in the middle of the room. The stupid post-TWA 800 questions, the searches of blue-haired grannies, the seizure of nail clippers--all of those "remedies" fail to take into account the one thing that's sure to lessen the chances of future bin Laden-inspired attacks: Arab profiling. Raj is Muslim, probably Arab (though current reports indicate Sri Lankan). All the 9-11 attackers were Arab, as are a preponderance of Al Qaeda's troops (with the possible exception of Taliban Johnny). Profiling male Arabs, travelling either alone or in groups with other male Arabs, with little or no luggage and often on one-way tickets, will smell bad, but it may be the quickest way to get at the problem as well as show any future terrorists that we're not messing around.
Posted by B. Preston at 02:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack