US Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano claimed ‘the system worked’ in relation to the near miss bombing attempt on Northwest flight 253 on Christmas Day.
It did, but only to the extent that once the plot was foiled by courageous passengers, the threat was communicated to other planes, airports and travellers.
The ‘system’ did not work to stop the attack from occurring – that was purely luck.
So I can understand Obama’s angry claim that “We dodged a bullet, but just barely. It was averted by brave individuals, not because the system worked and that is not acceptable.”
Obama said he would not tolerate any finger pointing amongst security staff. Again, fair enough.
What is less fair is Obama’s vehemently and publicly pointing the finger at those same security personel, making it clear he blames them for this failure.
It is less fair not only because it was rude and unneccesary, but because clear policy directives from the top have made it virtually impossible for security staff to do their jobs.
If staff are forbidden to profile on the basis of race, forbidden to profile on the basis of religion or nationality, what are they to do?
Rely on second hand information? Well yes, to some extent.
As Napolitano points out, Abdulmutallab was on a ‘tied list,’ on the basis of such information. But there are over half a million people on that list.
And whatever US security staff did would not have mattered anyway.
Abdulmutallab was checked in and boarded the plane to Detroit in Amsterdam. Increased check-in security procedures in the US, increased information sharing, or even race/religion/country profiling, would not have made any difference.
So what exactly were Obama’s security staff getting blasted for?
I’m sure I don’t know. But it certainly made him look as if he was serious.