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A Mother’s Concern Over Homeland Security

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".

About Christine Lakatos

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Christine – “It’s unfortunate that our current administration treats terrorists more like common criminals as opposed to the unrelenting and deadly, terrorizing threat they represent.”

    You DO know, of course, that the shoe bomber was tried in and sentenced by a civilian court of law under the Bush administration, and that Bush never even mentioned the incident until six days after it happened.

    Look, Christine – no one likes the prospect of terror in the air…which is why I take the train whenever I can instead of air travel. That said, our illegal and unprovoked war on Iraq, which has resulted in literally millions of refugees, and hundreds of thousands of orphans, has made us many, many enemies among those who are of the same faith as those in Iraq.

    Thanks to Bush, we brought much of this upon ourselves. Of course you don’t like to hear that, but that is the truth.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Glenn, did you read the end of my post about the Bush style? Maybe you missed that part. It is frustrating when that happens.

    I’m not saying that I advocate the aggressive “Cowboy Bush”––shoot first ask questions later approach…

    And they hated and declared war on us way before Iraq, but I do believe it made it worse.

    Anyway, Happy New Year, you are terrific!

  • Deano

    Here’s some stats from Boing Boing that might restore a bit of sanity: From 1999-2009.

    Total # commercial flights:99,320,309
    # terrorist attacks: 6
    # successful terorist attacks; 4
    Total # passengers: 7,015,630,000
    total # killed passengers: 647
    Odds of being a terrorist victim in a flight: 1 in 10.4 million

    Odds of being killed by lightening 1 in 500,000

    Just try to keep it in perspective. You are far more likely to die driving to and from the airport….

  • Ruvy

    Christine,

    If you tweak Deano’s stats just a bit, the picture changes dramatically. Add the 3,000 people killed at the World Trade Center (allegedly from airplanes hitting it) to the 647 dead, and you get 3,647 dead.

    Now let’s take a look:

    Total # passengers and those near airplanes: 7,015,633,000.

    Total # killed in terrorist attacks involving airplanes: 3,647.

    Odds of being a victim in a terrorist attack involving airplanes 1 in 1,923,672.

    It’s a very different perspective.

    Ah, it’s fun to remember Sam Clemens’ saying: “There are lies, there are damned lies, and then there are statistics.”

    Happy 2010, Christine.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Aksimet rejected the simpler comment on this as spam. So, we’ll do this the hard way – no URLS. Google up “Flying with Fish”, and “Armed TSA Agents Threaten Travel Journalist”.

    Reporting on this directive from the TSA brought armed TSA agents to a travel journalists door, where they confiscated his laptop, copied his hard drive and installed all sorts of viruses and bad sectors to ruin it. So much for you freedoms, Christine.

    TSA Security Directive SD-1544-09-06 : The Fallout From NW253
    12.27.2009 | Author: flyingfish | Posted in Uncategorized

    27/12/2009 – TSA Security Directive SD-1544-09-06 : The Fallout From NW253

    Following the failed Christmas Day terrorist attack on Delta Air Lines Flight 253, operated by Northwest Airlines, from Amsterdam to Detroit, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has created a series of security measures in reaction to the incident.

    Earlier today I wrote about Flight NW253 here, 27/12/2009 – Northwest Airlines Flight 253 : Myths & Facts.

    The following is the complete text of the US DHS security directive as implemented by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

    I post this text with no commentary or opinion; it is posted in its entirety as fact for you to better understand what is currently occurring in the realm of international aviation security.

    Happy Flying & remember to use the lavatory 61 minutes prior to arrival in the US from overseas

    U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
    Transportation Security Administration

    Aviation Security Directive

    Subject: Security Directive
    Number: SD 1544-09-06
    Date: December 25, 2009

    EXPIRATION: 0200Z on December 30, 2009

    This Security Directive (SD) must be implemented immediately. The measures contained in this SD are in addition to all other SDs currently in effect for your operations.

    INFORMATION: On December 25, 2009, a terrorist attack was attempted against a flight traveling to the United States. TSA has identified security measures to be implemented by airports, aircraft operators, and foreign air carriers to mitigate potential threats to flights.

    APPLICABILITY: THIS SD APPLIES TO AIRCRAFT OPERATORS THAT CARRY OUT A SECURITY PROGRAM REGULATED UNDER 49 CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS (CFR)1544.101(a).

    ACTIONS REQUIRED: If you conduct scheduled and/or public charter flight operations under a Full Program under 49 CFR 1544.101(a) departing from any foreign location to the United States (including its territories and possessions), you must immediately implement all measures in this SD for each such flight.

    1. BOARDING GATE

    1. The aircraft operator or authorized air carrier representative must ensure all passengers are screened at the boarding gate during the boarding process using the following procedures. These procedures are in addition to the screening of all passengers at the screening checkpoint.

    1. Perform thorough pat-down of all passengers at boarding gate prior to boarding, concentrating on upper legs and torso.
    2. Physically inspect 100 percent of all passenger accessible property at the boarding gate prior to boarding, with focus on syringes being transported along with powders and/or liquids.
    3. Ensure the liquids, aerosols, and gels restrictions are strictly adhered to in accordance with SD 1544-06-02E.

    2. During the boarding process, the air carrier may exempt passengers who are Heads of State or Heads of Government from the measures outlined in Section I.A. of this SD, including the following who are traveling with the Head of State or Head of Government:

    1. Spouse and children, or
    2. One other individual (chosen by the Head of State or Head of Government)

    3. For the purposes of Section I.B., the following definitions apply:

    1. Head of State: An individual serving as the chief public representative of a monarchic or republican nation-state, federation, commonwealth, or any other political state (for example, King, Queen, and President).

    2. Head of Government: The chief officer of the executive branch of a government presiding over a cabinet (for example, Prime Minister, Premier, President, and Monarch).

    2. IN FLIGHT

    1. During flight, the aircraft operator must ensure that the following procedures are followed:

    1. Passengers must remain in seats beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
    2. Passenger access to carry-on baggage is prohibited beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
    3. Disable aircraft-integrated passenger communications systems and services (phone, internet access services, live television programming, global positioning systems) prior to boarding and during all phases of flight.
    4. While over U.S. airspace, flight crew may not make any announcement to passengers concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks.
    5. Passengers may not have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.

    AIRCRAFT OPERATOR ACKNOWLEDGMENT: The aircraft operator must immediately provide written confirmation to its assigned PSI indicating receipt of this SD.

    AIRCRAFT OPERATOR dissemination required: The aircraft operator must immediately pass the information and directives set forth in this SD to all stations affected, and provide written confirmation to its PSI, indicating that all stations affected have acknowledged receipt of the information and directives set forth in this SD. The aircraft operator must disseminate this information to its senior management personnel, ground security coordinators, and supervisory security personnel at all affected locations. All aircraft operator personnel implementing this SD must be briefed by the aircraft operator on its content and the restrictions governing dissemination. No other dissemination may be made without prior approval of the Assistant Secretary for the Transportation Security Administration. Unauthorized dissemination of this document or information contained herein is prohibited by 49 CFR Part 1520 (see 69 Fed. Reg. 28066 (May 18, 2004).

    APPROVAL OF ALTERNATIVE MEASURES: With respect to the provisions of this SD, as stated in 49 CFR 1544.305(d), the aircraft operator may submit in writing to its PSI proposed alternative measures and the basis for submitting the alternative measures for approval by the Assistant Administrator for Transportation Sector Network Management. The aircraft operator must immediately notify its PSI whenever any procedure in this SD cannot be carried out by a government authority charged with performing security procedures.

    FOR TSA ACTION ONLY: The TSA must issue this SD immediately to the corporate security element of all affected U.S. aircraft operators.

    FOR STATE DEPARTMENT: Retransmittal to appropriate foreign posts is authorized. Post must refer to STATE 162917, 201826Z Sep 01, Subject: FAA Security Directives and Information Circulars: Definitions and Handling, for specific guidance and dissemination.

    Gale Rossides
    Acting Administrator

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Mark Twain: “There are lies, there are damned lies, and then there are statistics.”

    Christopher Rose: “And then there are those who just make stuff up and to hell with all the facts.”

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Ruvy, thanks for you information and Happy New Year to you!

  • Deano

    Ruvy,

    In case you didn’t notice, even with the WTC casualties added in, the odds are still 1 in 2 million.

    You are still far more likely to die in a car crash, slipping in the bathtub or being hit by lightening then on an airplane at the hands of a terrorist and that is an undisputed fact.

    Have a happy new year and be careful in the tub.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Deano, while I see your point, maybe you should tell the 278 passengers of Flight 253 that.

  • Deano

    Christine,

    I understand that as a parent, no matter what odds are cited, no matter what statistics, the heart will rule. You care for your kids no matter how steep the odds or unlikely the chance.

    But you need to temper that parental reaction with common sense, otherwise you won’t ever be able to let them out of your sight, or out the door for that matter, let alone in bathtub.

    The problem with the current level of hyperbole and overreaction to events like this manifests itself in multiple ways. It encourages more disruptive, pointless attacks on airlines because they get headlines and media coverage – and Al Quaeda and other terrorist groups thrive and recruit on such “victories” even if unsuccessful – they do not lack for disaffected, easily manipulatable candidates for the next attempt.

    In addition it over exaggerates the reach and capabilities of organizations like Al Quaeda, which in turn pulls government, intelligence and private sector resources off of strategic, critical concerns into spending time placating (and at times exploiting) needless or over exaggerated public fears.

    The money, resources and time being spent on “security theatre” at airports around the world would be better spent on building improved intelligence capabilities and stronger international cooperation against cross-border, international threats.

    And for the record, I’m more than happy to tell the 278 passengers of Flight 253 just that. In the long run, it will keep them a damn sight safer than confiscating nail clippers…

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Deano: I hear ya, parents like me can be overly protective, but that beats the opposite spectrum, those that are negligent, which mine were. But that is another story.

    I realize that the terrorists are just as satisfied making us scared shitless. And I agree; they need to do more with the intelligence, because in this case, there were so many (more today, this dude called and said good-bye to his father). How could they (homeland security) screw this one up?

  • Deano

    How could they screw it up?

    First – you can’t catch everything, you can’t catch everyone. As much as some people would like to believe that computers and satellites and databases are omnipotent, they aren’t. They are often legacy systems, massive collectives of names, alias, descriptions, out-of-date warnings etc. that communicate poorly with each other and are often entangled in red tape and multiple jurisdictions.

    In addition you have people at the helm of these operations and people are falliable, sometimes lazy, sometimes corrupt and often paid a miserly wage for a thankless and aggravating job.

    Homeland Security is a process, it is a system. It will never be perfect and when you take millions of dollars and new regulations and just throw it recklessly at the problem you are likely only to solve what is apparent and immediate rather then addressing root problems and causes.

  • Arch Conservative

    Hey Christopher Rose…..I’ve recently been exposed to Nigel Farage and I think he’s great.

    Tell me about him. What’s your take on him.

  • zingzing

    “How could they (homeland security) screw this one up?”

    guy had a firecracker tied to his testicles. he bordered a plane in africa, went to europe, then burned his nuts over detroit. basically, other than the addition of a few new wrinkles on some guy’s scrotum, nothing happened.

    how could they screw it up? easy. i know it, you know it. there are cracks. stop acting like this really surprises you. no one is buying it.

    say he had been carrying a real bomb. do you think he’d have gotten away with it?

    stop overreacting. it’s annoying. and transparent.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Well concealed plastic explosives would not be apparent on a passenger. They could be taken to the lavatory to be detonated. There is nothing that can be discovered before-hand. The extra ‘security’ measures are mostly a show because it doesn’t look very good for a state that is focused on scaring people, to then just do nothing at all.

    Nothing less than strip searches including body cavities and x-rays for every single passenger and a lavatory with see-through glass will work.

    Either change the causes of terrorism or get used to it.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    It really has to do with the fact that this “terrorist dude” shouldn’t of been allowed on the plane in the first place. There were many “red flags”, of which I place in the article.

    And Zing, thanks for your nice commentary as usual. The article is entitled “concerned” not paranoid. If I was that paranoid about terrorism on planes I never would of allowed my teenage daughter to fly out of the country in the first place. It was just the timing of it all that got me in “worried mode”.

    Happy New Year to you and Cindy, Arch, Deano, Christopher, Glen, Ruvy, and anyone else that stops by today. hugs!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “Either change the causes of terrorism or get used to it.”

    Quite true. It must be dumbfounding for Americans to even think their lives might be in danger. The question is, when and how did we ever acquire this stubborn belief in our own invincibility? What makes us so goddamn different from other nations?

    It’s surely a vestige and sign of what we still view as “American exceptionalism.”

    To attack the nation of the free and the brave? Who on earth would dare?

  • zingzing

    yeah, christine, i know. not that i said you were paranoid. in fact, my point was the opposite. “the timing of it all” might happen to be “while there’s a democrat to blame.” just saying.

    besides, if you really think that the tsa or homeland security can stop every terrorist act, you’re living in a dreamworld. as cindy said, “Either change the causes of terrorism or get used to it.” even with the better attitude toward the world we are currently displaying, we’ve got a lot of leftover bushit to shovel before we can really expect any real security. we’ve been assholes for far too long for anyone to see us differently.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “we’ve been assholes for far too long for anyone to see us differently.”

    Quoted for truth.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    The following article, “The Violence of the Global,” is on the nature of terrorism.

    Read and weep.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “it failed all of the of people flying this holiday season”

    Horse feathers. Why does one failure in the system mean no one else did their job right? That’s a ridiculous assumption considering how many people were flying.

    “I thought it was the job of Department of Homeland Security to prevent terrorist attacks not the responsibility of citizens to thwart them.”

    You thought wrong if you expected them to get it right 100% of the time. And why wouldn’t it be the job of citizens to thwart them? So if you overhear people talking in an airport about taking down a plane, you’ll just sit there quietly because the government is supposed to protect you?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Hey El, while I see your points, this particular case is an obvious “no-fly” one for way too many reasons. It is not like he was an unknown person, who bought a ticket, carried luggage, etc.

    And it did affect many others flying on airplanes this holiday season, creating more concern than normal. But that is just MO.

  • FitzBoodle

    In the week since the scare about 800 Americans have died because they were denied medical care because we do not have UHC. It’s a crime of neglect. And yet, few seem to care.

    But many notice, and some of those who notice are America-haters, who conclude that our constant professions of saintliness are bogus and that we ourselves are content to kill Americans for no better reason than to preserve the grotesque profits of the insurance monopolies.

    When they add that to our propensity to kill Iraqi and Afghan teenagers and bystanders carelessly they probably conclude that all kinds of warfare are permitted. Indeed, extreme measures are required.

    Who could believe our protestations of virtue?

  • mrdockellis

    Meanwhile back on topic, this system obviously cannot stop an individual who’s a known threat, whatever list he’s on. Facts pointing to his threat status were obvious. The U.S. will either stop these people over there or we’ll bow to political correctness and allow them access to flights to America.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Yeah, NEW RULE announced today…
    TSA Statement on New Security Measures for International Flights to the U.S

    Plus US and Britain Embassy’s closed today in Yemen. Al Qaeda on the loose…

    U.S. embassy in Yemen closed over threats by al-Qaeda

  • http://www.mothersactingup.org Joellen Raderstorf

    Thanks for writing about a global security issue from a mother’s perspective. I would love your perspective on how to get more mothers to engage in security issues. So far moms are most noted for talking about dieting and shopping. How can we add global security to the list, we are security experts after all. We raise billions of children with very few accidents. Would really love your thoughts.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Joellen, that is a great comment, however, I’m not sure how to get mother’s “engaged” in security issues and less in the latter. But you are correct!

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    I suggest we try not to follow in the footsteps of men. War, terrorism, violence are the products of male thinking. I hope we will stop aspiring to get really good at their sorts of solutions and instead we use who we are to modify the world along different more positive and constructive lines.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “I’m not sure how to get mother’s “engaged” in security issues.”

    Engaged to what end, Christine? To send their sons to Iraq and Afghanistan so as to nip terrorism at the bud? Good luck with that prospect.

    You should be thinking about a world free of conflict (and acts of terrorism). And the first question which ought to suggest itself: what can we do to stabilize the situation? What can America and the West do? Are we all so righteous as most here would assume or perhaps, just perhaps, we ought to mend our ways? Have we really, in our policies and actions, treated all those who are outside our ideological system with the kind of respect we ourselves would demand? Haven’t we been too impressed with ourselves, all along thinking we are God’s gift to the world – bringing prosperity and democracy and human rights – while we’re faltering when it comes to delivering the same to our own citizens?

    Don’t you see the hypocrisy?

  • RANDTHINKS

    What is not addressed is why these powers that be engage their controls in these areas-the worldwide domination of labor and control of power-based drug cartels in the regions. There are no human or personal considerations-it is a purely evil empire. The rest of the world is bankrupt and worthless to these people-and real security worldwide is fractional and marginal—you want truth-I tell the whole story—-sleep on it!

  • RANDTHINKS

    The easiest answer to the above question is begged; to gain greater security-quit letting clients fire very qualified, educated and experienced security people because they cannot deal with inter-personal relationships or because outsourcing does not back security personnel! I have dozens of qualified and positive suggestions-but this meager industry has black-balled me, and it is so disheveled that what you see in airports scanning the public-are old retread guards from an old process. Not better educated-and not nearly enough to thwart an aggressive terrorist event. I know full well what
    The Homeland Defense knows-”TRAVEL IS A CRAP-SHOOT”!

  • RANDTHINKS

    TERRORISTS DO NOT PONDER, EQUIVOCATE,OR SHOW ANY INTEREST IN CIVILITY-THEY DEAL IN DEATH! THESE GUCCI-STYLIZED DEBATES ARE NOT GONNA GET THE PUBLIC PROTECTED-I MIGHT! BUT THEY FEAR ME-WHY-I SAY MORE ARMAMENT AND TOUGHER TRAINING AND FINANCING IS MANDATORY IF YOU EVEN WANT SOME SEMBLANCE OF A REAL SECURITY SERVICE! WHAT WE HAVE ON DISPLAY THESE DAYS- IS A BIG FAT JOKE—ON THE AMERICAN PUBLIC! YOU WILL SEE DEAD PEOPLE-BECAUSE THEY STILL DON’T TAKE SECURITY SERIOUSLY-TO THE DEGREE IT SHOULD BE RESPECTED AND FORTIFIED. YOUR NECK-WHEN YOU FLY—–NOT ME!