Since 9/11 I haven't been that enthused about getting on an airplane, but it's never been a problem because I'm not a frequent traveler. However, I did allow my teenage daughter to fly out of the country to Taiwan and Malaysia for the Christmas holidays. Prior to my daughter's departure, I was aware that I would miss her a lot because she had never been out of my sight for more than five days and as most mothers, I was concerned about her safety. And, yes, I did think about terrorism and even mentioned it to some of my friends. There response, “You watch the news too much”.
The Christmas Day attempted terrorist attack on Flight 253 (Amsterdam to Detroit) awakened my fears because four days after this dreadful event, my daughter was about to board a flight to come home. And what made it most worrisome, she was flying from another country back to the United States––Taipei, Taiwan to Los Angeles. Feelings of fear hit home. Not like the terror experienced by the passengers and crew on Flight 253 on Christmas day, but inner panic that this terror plot might be more of a larger one. Was our government on top of this situation and handling our homeland security properly? Will be my daughter be safe?
I guess I wasn't too crazy because as I was writing this blog I found out that another airline bomber, with a plan similar to that of the "Christmas Bomber," was caught trying to board a commercial airliner in Mogadishu last month.
Suffice it to say, my daughter made it home safely and without incident. In an effort to keep this story from becoming melodramatic, I'll just say that Tuesday, December 29 was a very long day of waiting and worrying, but with the assistance of my brother, my eldest daughter, a few friends, and my dog Shorty, I picked up my daughter from LAX and was relieved and excited!
Shortly after this attempted terrorist attack, the facts surrounding Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab began to unravel. While many are still questioning how Abdulmutallab got on a plane with a bomb and why there weren’t more “red flags” raised, information about this case continues to soar faster than a jet. Like the fact that Abdulmutallab purchased a ticket with cash and did not carry any luggage and back in May he was denied a visa by the British government and was placed on an official watch list to prevent him from re-entering Britain. What we are learning is that Abdulmutallab has links to Al Qaeda, who have claimed responsibility for this plot to blow up the airliner bound for Detroit.
The most interesting part of this story is that the father of Abdulmutallab had recently (about a month ago) contacted the U.S. Embassy and various other security agencies to warn them that his son had "become radicalized." Apparently Abdulmutallab was placed on the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) list but failed to make it on the “no-fly” list. Recent reports also tell us that the CIA knew of a "Nigerian" airline terror plot, but according to a CIA spokesperson, "We learned of Abdulmutallab in November, when his father came to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria and sought help in finding him. We did not have his name before then."
What Flight 253 deserved in the days following this terror attempt was a quick response from a president to commend them for their heroic acts; followed by a nation that needed a sense of safety and security. But what we got was a president that decided to wait a few days before he addressed our nation, and worse an administration that sent out Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who appeared on the State of the Union this past Sunday and stated that "the system worked" and a day later she clarified her ridiculous and controversial remark by backtracking and admitting, “Our system did not work in this instance".
When President Obama gave his second press statement in reaction to the Christmas day bomb plot, he labeled it a "systemic failure". Well, they got that right––the system and the people running the system FAILED! It not only failed those 278 passengers and crew on Flight 253, the city of Detroit, and the United States, but it failed all of the of people flying this holiday season, including my daughter.
I thought it was the job of Department of Homeland Security to prevent terrorist attacks, not the responsibility of citizens to thwart them. While there is plenty of blame to go around, a third grader could have put all of these “dots” together, made a nice picture, and colored it in without going out of the lines.
It’s unfortunate that our current administration treats terrorists more like common criminals as opposed to the unrelenting and deadly, terrorizing threat they represent. It's quite fascinating that they have changed the name from a "War on Terror” to "Overseas Contingency Operations". Did they miss the fact that these radical Muslim extremists declared jihad (“holy war”) against the U.S., intensified their warfare on 9/11 when they used four of our airplanes as weapons to murder almost 3,000 innocent people, have in 2009 vowed to open "new fronts" against the U.S. and its allies, and evidently aren’t done yet.
I’m not saying that I advocate the aggressive “Cowboy Bush”––shoot first ask questions later approach, but going the other extreme––everyone needs to love me passive, “Obama Style”––is just as dangerous. I'm well aware of the complexity of the terrorism issue and the difficulties involved in combating this type of evil, but homeland security should be a top priority––they need to fix the failures, make sure there are no other loopholes in the system, and anticipate possible killing methods terrorists may try in the future. I can only hope and pray that moving forward our concerns will be lightened and as we (or one of our loved ones) board an airplane we will be safer.