Okay, so the not-so-subtle signal from the Obama administration is that the U.S. authorities are not to be too aggressive in investigation and surveillance of potential terrorists. Rather, make that Islamic terrorists, because those are the people we most don’t want to offend.
Of course, we all do have a great deal of sympathy for moderate and secular Muslims who must also suffer under the scourge of political oppression, female repression, and murderous terroristic attacks on innocent people.
Clearly, Mr. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should not have been aboard the Northwest Airlines passenger jet that nearly blew up and killed nearly 300 people; the anti-terrorist policies set by the previous Bush administration were designed to prevent Abdulmutallab’s access, or the taking aboard of equipment like syringes, volatile liquids, and PETN. Of course, Mr. Bush’s strongest efforts met with equally strong resistance, and a moral high road was claimed by those who championed a slack-jawed idealism and a tendency to equivocate in the approach to national security.
Mr. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, like many a “frustrated” terrorist, was the son of a wealthy Nigerian banker who had to the good sense to complain to the state department six months ago that his son was taking the militant Islam bit altogether too seriously. So seriously, in fact, that he left his posh London digs several times to travel to Egypt, Dubai, and Yemen for indoctrination in terror bombings and hatred of the West. One wonders if Abdulmutallab would have attempted the bombing had his own father been aboard, yet so brainwashed and empty of free thinking and individual freedom was he, that we dread knowing the answer.
Details of the attempted bombing are coming in at a fast pace though not from official sources. Abdulmutallab began to spill information to authorities immediately, we’re told, and said he’d got his bomb and instructions from Al Qaeda style contacts in Yemen. This information, mistrusted at first because of its source, makes sense if you are a failed bomber who wants to advertise his importance. Certainly, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had some kind of help in his travels, in getting the chemicals and syringes into the airplane, and getting into seat number 19A which is over the wing and the fuel tank and next to the skin of the plane where a bomb would do maximum damage.
According to a CBS report, the syringe was used in an unusual and non-typical manner. A CBS news story says that the bomber used the syringe to directly inject chemicals into powdered explosives taped to his leg. Along with cell phones, syringes were used as part of the triggering device in the failed London incendiary bomb attacks a few years ago, but Abdulmutallab was reported to have prepared his attack during a twenty-minute bathroom break after which he is said to have returned to his seat, covered himself with a blanket, and ignited some of the bomb or triggering materials.
In spite of being on a terror watch list for a period some say extended to two years, the bombing suspect was able to board a plane in Lagos, Nigeria, where expensive security systems are lacking. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab flew then to a modern hi-tech airport in Amsterdam where security is state-of-the-art but rarely used.
Most reports have it that the bomber faced no obstacle more daunting than the magnetometers which are used to search school students for metal weapons. The Amsterdam airport where the bomber connected to a U.S. flight has ultra-tech backscatter body scanners which would have revealed packages taped to the body but these weren’t used so as not to invade passenger privacy.
“Passenger privacy” is something that most people won’t understand unless they consider that it has more to do with certain religious and political conceptions than with real privacy. Looking at the fine, curved lines of a New York runway model through a backscatter body scanner would block all notions of sexy from the libidinous observer. You get a little ghost outline, everyone looks alike, and one size fits all-unless you’re an airplane bomber.
Most people don’t give a damn and would gladly bare themselves to a backscatter body scanner, much preferring that to being blown up in the skies, but we’re not adopting policies for “most people” these days, or for people who feel that way. Our policies are designed to make people feel good, as if we’re suspended in perpetuity on that fine morning of September of 2001, with the autumn air clear and the sun pouring down like honey, and the clock stuck forever on 8:00 a.m.
Representative Peter King of New York, the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, told a television news anchor today that the U.S. State Department sounded an alarm about Abdulmutallab on November 23. But there was no reason to take action against him, King was told. Nonetheless Congress will be investigating how this happened as well it should. But we’ve had investigations before and if the 9-11 Commission could not effect a change of mind, we will be waiting for the next disaster or perhaps the next election before we can come to our senses. Currently, a proactive approach to surveillance and tracking of terror suspects is no longer in fashion, except in the ex post facto world of Obama White House Department of Justice sorties.