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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Doublespeaking the truth

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is a late but strong entrant into the PR Nightmare Award of the Year (though probably still not good enough to oust Tiger Woods).

Napolitano, of course, infamously said the airport security system worked in the aftermath of the Briefs Bomber's failed attempt to bring down a Northwest Airlines flight. A day later, she backtracked and said the system failed.

But admit it -- based on your own experiences with the Transportation Security Administration, aren't both statements correct? Isn't your experience with TSA maddeningly inconsistent?

It's one of the things no one wants to admit, particularly when we are in those long, snaking lines. Yes, for the most part the system does work -- in the sense we get on our plane and get to our destination.

But do you harbor doubts when you have a sealed jar of fruit preserves, weighing less than 3 ounces, confiscated as contraband "gel"? Particularly when you read about the guns and knifes that make it through the screening process and onto the aircraft?

And don't you have really mixed feelings about a security scan that probably can detect explosives stashed in underwear -- at the price of exposing your private parts for the screeners?

Or when, as some travelers were apparently told this weekend, the rule about nothing in your lap for the final hour of the flight included no reading material? As details of the plot emerged it became obvious why the there was a blanket-pillow prohibition. But a book?

The biggest gap, of course, is the failure of authorities to properly handle the tip they received from the father of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, how they could not rescind his visa or place him on a no-fly list.

Military and terrorism experts like to tell us we are fighting an asynchronous war -- the equivalent of smashing a flea with a 500-pound bomb. Those who are out to do us harm have the element of surprise and a wide world in which to operate -- and conceal themselves. That applies to all battlefields, including the airport.

Overall, the system works -- until it doesn't as was so visibly on display this weekend. And because the potential price for failure is lost lives, the desire for a perfect system is understandable.

Understandable, but not possible. And that is a non-partisan fact. Which doesn't mean I want to be Napolitano or her media handlers today.

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Blogger Daniel said...

So I guess me and my kids will be treated to a trip through the L3 Nakedifier the next time we go to Disneyworld. Which would make a little more sense if I knew that everybody boarding a US-bound plane in Saudi Arabia, Amsterdam, or Timbuktu is going to be subject to the same necessary degradation. Not sure whether that's the case, though.
Also, inevitably somebody might try to get around the new technology by shoving a brick of C-4 or whatever where the scanner don't shine. Will that mean mandatory cavity searches for all? The full prison experience for the price of an airline ticket.
Driving never looked so good.

December 29, 2009 8:54 AM  

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