The latest attempted plane bombing caught my interest because of the way perception seems to trump reality in our media-saturated age.
It wouldn't be surprising if holiday travel to the CNMI takes a hit. One incident on one of the thousands of daily flights can do that. Airline travel is ridiculously safe, particularly immediately after an incident like this, but who cares about statistics?
The system worked, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano reportedly said. With all due respect... no. (UPDATE: she agrees) Her unspoken assumption is that the system can work all of the time, every where. That's a very American assumption: if we throw billions of dollars at a problem it will go away.
It won't. We can, and have, added multiple layers of security. They work very well and they can undoubtedly work better. Not perfectly, though. Sorry.
Realistically, it's been eight years since Richard Reid the shoe bomber. Both men used very small amounts of a high explosive-- and failed. We've been very lucky. There are thousands of fanatics out there and they are going to keep trying.
Let the hand-wringing begin
'What went wrong?' the politicians are howling as they put on television make-up and schedule hearings, meaning 'who can we blame?'
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was on the lowest-level database, evidently because there was 'insufficient derogatory information' to classify him higher. Supposedly his father told the American Embassy his son had extremist views. That's it-- though maybe he followed up with emails that ended up in the spam folder with other Nigerian bankers.
Seriously, Abdulmutallab probably would have earned more suspicion if there had been other factoids about him. We simply don't have the resources to investigate more than 500,000 'suspicious' people. The reports I've read say that even now, authorities are still checking out his claim of a Yemeni connection, possibly to Al Qaeda.
Degrees of separation
That Yemeni link intrigues me: evidently the poor little rich kid's mother is from Yemen and he says he studied with a radical internet cleric there. The Detroit area is home to a large number of Yemenis (and Moslems) and there have just been two air strikes against radicals in that country.
One of the targets in the second strike was a former Guantanamo detainee who went through the highly-touted Saudi Arabian 're-education' program for radicals-- he is one of the few recidivists to-date. Since almost half of the remaining prisoners are from Yemen, that's a monkey wrench in plans to close Gitmo.
Honestly, I probably wouldn't have bothered reading the Washington Post and New York Times articles on the second bombing if their lead sentences hadn't pissed me off by referring to the "suspect in the Fort Hood shootings". Innocent until proven guilty, sure, but what a namby-pamby politically correct way of putting it.
Mostly, I'm concerned that we're drawing closer to a semi-free failing state that tortures its opposition, locks up its journalists and appears to survive because the majority of the population is in a self-medicated khat-chewing stupor.