The Nigerian, The Knickerbomber

New Years Resolution #3 (I have others): Clear out my stupid Google Reader! rolls up sleeves

National Post – David Frum: U.S. looks for bombs instead of terrorists

The real culprit in the underwear bombing? It’s the U.S. embassy in Lagos, argues Thomas Lipscomb.

According to the Department of State, Umaru had a face to face meeting at the request of high officials in Nigerian Security with top American embassy officials on November 19th. And the records at State show what did happen.

The Department of State did a cursory derogatory information sweep on Abdulmutullab on November 20th and found nothing. Then on November 23rd The Department of State referred the matter to the Department of Justice which concluded with his being added to the TIDE database. There is no evidence that any attempt was made to contact British authorities where the young man had lived in a 4 million pound flat while on a student visa to the UK. His American visa had been issued in London. If they had, they might have learned the British had already pulled Abdulmutullab’s visa last May.

Apparently no one ever considered the easiest, simplest step to review the multiple entry visa and associated travel records to see if something had changed that might lend credence to the father’s concern.

Incompetent State Department consular officials and poor enforcement of visa procedures that have been in place long before the personal computer, the Xerox machine or even the jet airliner are the problem here. And we aren’t hearing a word about it.

Better the American public should be forced to endure another blizzard of press releases announcing another round of ridiculous indignities by dazzling Rube Goldberg technology rather than have our press and our government demand an accounting from the employees at a government bureaucracy who can’t even comply with their own time-tested procedures.

Emphasis his. So he moves onto how “it’s privacy restrictions placed on air travel screening, replies former DHS official Stewart Coffin”…

Why is it so hard to get on the selectee or no-fly lists? In part because privacy campaigners have made the lists less effective and more controversial by raising phony privacy concerns — and getting Congress to buy into those concerns. Here’s the problem: The lists are full of aliases and alternative spellings that the terrorists might use to defeat screening. As a result, many, many people (kids, Senators, grandmas) end up as selectees because their names resemble the aliases of terrorism suspects. The resulting hassles and complaints make officials cautious about adding large numbers of names to the selectee list.

So why doesn’t the US use other information, like date of birth, to “disambiguate” the lists — to separate terrorist suspects from regular folks? After all, we knew Abdulmutallab’s birthdate, along with a lot of other information; there was no need to stop every Abdul Mutallab or Abdul-Mutallab or abu Mutallab from flying to the US. But DHS hasn’t been able to disambiguate the list because privacy campaigners and Congress prohibited DHS from gathering birthdates from passengers. That information was too sensitive to share with the government, said the privacy groups, and they insisted that Congress prohibit DHS from running the selection process for years while DHS got over a series of privacy hurdles.

So, rather than asking government bureaucrats to comply with their own procedures, they’d rather make every American submit himself to being seen nekkid. And Congress is so concerned with privacy that they feel it’s more important to protect a couple thousand people’s birthdays but make every American submit himself to being seen nekkid. Interesting priorities. Back to Frum:

There are two ways to protect air travel: look for bombs or look for terrorists.

Read  the complete post…

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