Searching for National Security

Published on November 30th, 2010

The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has taken to using x-ray machines and ever more intrusive physical searches of passengers seeking to board airliners in the name of national security.  We all know that these procedures were initiated in the wake of the efforts of a 23 year old Nigerian citizen, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, to destroy an airliner in which he was a passenger as it prepared to land at Detroit’s Metropolitan Airport near the conclusion of the flight that had originated in Amsterdam last Christmas Day.  He had hidden explosives in his underwear that fortunately smoldered but failed to explode, earning Abdulmutallab the nickname of the “Underwear Bomber.” As you may recall, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano conducted a press conference the next day and incredibly declared, “The system worked!”  This is yet another reason why I have come to refer to DHS as the Department of Homeland Surrender! The lives of the passengers on board that airliner and the potential victims on the ground under that airliner were not spared by any effort mounted by any official of the United States government but by the good fortune that the explosives failed to properly detonate and also because a passenger on the airliner decided to take matters in his own hands and restrained “Captain Underpants!” I was so angered at the preposterous statements of Ms Napolitano that I wrote a commentary shortly after her news conference in which I said, “If hope is not a strategy, then dumb luck is not a success!”  Several years ago our government reacted to an earlier attempt to detonate hidden explosives that were concealed in the shoes of a British subject, Richard Reid who has come to be referred to as the “Shoe Bomber.”  The reaction consisted of the requirement that all passengers who seek to board an airliner must remove their shoes and have them x-rayed.  Therefore, it was predictable that TSA would focus on  the underwear of passengers before they boarded airliners after the Underwear Bomber made his attempt to destroy and airliner in flight. Last year I jokingly suggested that the TSA would react to the “Underwear Bomber” by subjecting airline passengers to the “TSA Wedgie” or perhaps require that all passengers don medical exam gowns with their backsides flapping in the breeze!  I had no idea how close our government would come to carrying out what I had suggested in jest. While I am not saying that it is not appropriate for the TSA to devise strategies to defeat efforts by terrorists to conceal explosives on their persons, it is that I am angered at how it only took one terrorist with explosives concealed in his shoes to have TSA require passengers remove their shoes and a single “Underwear Bomber” now serves as a justification for controversial searches to be required while the fact that Richard Reid, as a British subject did not require a visa before boarding the airliner because Great Britain is one of 36 countries whose citizens do not need to receive visas before seeking entry into the United States. The 9/11 Commission was able to identify some 94 terrorists who managed to enter our country in the decade prior to the attacks of 9/11.  Of those 94 terrorists, it was determined that 59 had committed visa fraud and/or immigration fraud in order to enter our country and embed themselves in the United States.  There have been additional instances of aliens who committed immigration fraud who were involved with criminal activities and even terrorism. Yet virtually nothing has been done to combat visa fraud and/or immigration benefit fraud and the Visa Waiver Program is being continually expanded even though the visa process, if properly managed could offer an additional layer of security for airline travel and for the security of our nation!  Consider what this means—a single airline passenger with explosives in his drawers caused our government to spend tens or perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars on controversial x-ray equipment and conduct ever more intrusive searches of all passengers boarding airliners throughout the United States. Yet when dozens of terrorists and even greater numbers of transnational criminals are found to have committed visa fraud and immigration benefit fraud including gaming the system by which our nation naturalizes aliens, nothing is done to address these gaping holes in a system and this has severe national security implications! The immigration system must finally have integrity and our borders must be made secure!  The time has long since passed for the system to be made to truly work- the lives of our citizens and the security of our nation hang in the balance!

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