A US Constitutional Failure Regarding Our Protection
Like most of you, I am still in complete shock over Northwest Flight 253 and how our government still cannot connect-the-dots in simple intelligence matters to protect us from harm.
In this case, the well-respected father of a radical-Islamic Nigerian named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab reached out to the US Embassy and other organizations in an honorable and nearly heroic attempt to stop his son from committing a terrorist act against the US. How simple can it get?
What should have happened was that as soon as the credentials and credibility of the father was verified, at the very minimum, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab would have been put on a list to be screened very carefully (e.g. a complete, full-body strip search) before boarding an aircraft. Simply revoking Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s visa to enter the US would have been a good idea, but it might be difficult for airlines to check the visa status of every person with a valid visa to the US in their passport. The security officers screening passengers should have known that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was a potential threat. The airlines should have known. Everyone in this tragic comedy of errors should have known about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
According to news reports, the US learned of Abdulmutallab and his father’s warnings about his Islamic extremism in November, when his father came to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria. At that point in time, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s visa should have been revoked and his name put in a database, the so called “no fly list”. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should have never been on a plane to the US with a valid visa.
Richard A. Clarke, a former top counter-terrorism official in both the Bush and Clinton administrations has said:
“No matter how good your software is or how good your procedures are, at the end of the day it comes back to people.”
The truth of the matter is that Dick Clarke is wrong. At the end of the day it comes back to people, processes and policy (not only people as Clarke misstated).
The normal knee-jerk reaction to incompetence is for our government to throw more money at the problem and reorganize again. We now read that full-body scanners will be installed at certain airports. This helps demonstrate why, nearly a decade after the 9/11 attacks, a guy named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who’s father pleaded with US Embassy officials over his son’s radical views, can get on a US bound plane with explosives in his underwear. It is not technology nor scanners nor software that will protect us, it is simple human processes. (However, I do not doubt we might soon hear some software provider telling us how their great CEP software will keep us all safe!!)
What a crazy world we live in! Nearly a decade after September 11, 2001, countless billions spent on counter terrorisms improvements and trillions spent on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a guy named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab with a panicked father calling and visiting various US government agencies, can get on a plane bound for the US without a full body strip search. Moreover, the response by our government is more finger pointing and political grandstanding.
The bottom line is simple.
Our government has failed to protect us.
From our US Constitution:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
It is not Obama nor Bush, nor it is Democrats or Republicans, it is simply “our government”, and the blame games needs to stop. The failure is in our government to provide the most basic protection to US citizens.
Nearly a decade after 9/11, this Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab incident is a catastrophic US government failure. It is a very serious failure of our government to provide us with the most basic protection called for in the Constitutional Promise to all citizens and taxpayers. Our government is simply a failed system without a backup. In technical terms, it is like we have two broken subsystems (the two party system) with each subsystem always trying to undermine the credibility and operational effectiveness of the other subsystem. The result is that the overall system of government is very badly broken.