Sunday, October 24, 2004

Don't Even Let Them Aboard

For some light reading, I picked up the 9-11 COMISSION REPORT yesterday. At 567 pages, the report can be used as a boat anchor, if nothing else. Part of the report reads like a Tom Clancy novel. Part of it reads like stereo instructions. There are discussions of air traffic response times, lack of coordination between NORAD and the FAA, and other general Monday-morning quarterbacking.

There is an amazing piece of information that comes out on Page One of the report, which came as a complete shock to me. The report indicates a computer system was in place on 9-11, which identified passengers who should be subject to, “special security measures.” (P.1) The system was called CAPPS (Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System).

This computer system identified Mohammed Atta when he checked in to American Airlines Flight 11 at Logan International in Boston. (P.1) Despite the fact CAPPS thought Atta was squirrelly, the only consequence of the CAPPS flagging was that Atta’s bags were not put on the plane until it was confirmed he actually got on the plane. (P.1)

All we have heard in the years following 9-11 is that there was some sort of intelligence breakdown which led to the horrible events of that day. There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the media and the halls of Congress. How could our intelligence services have failed us, goes the standard refrain.

It does sound like an intelligence failure to me, but not quite the way the media has portrayed it.

Atta was identified as a problem. In fact, 10 of the 19 terrorists were identified by the CAPPS system, in different airports across the country. (Footnote 1, P. 451). Despite the fact that over 50% of the terrorists were spotted by CAPPS, not one of them was arrested. None of them were prevented from boarding. We all know what the result was.

Call me an alarmist, but it seems to me if someone is suspected of plotting terrorist activities in the US, they probably should be kept off airplanes. That sounds like a fairly reasonable security precaution to me. Guess what, Mohammed? Send money to Hamas or another terrorist group, and your boarding pass gets cancelled.

Atta and his fellow practitioners of the religion of peace were flagged as potential problems. They should never have been allowed on the planes. Yet they were, and thousands died. Am I the only one bothered by the fact the airlines let these murderers on board?

The big question that comes to mind is: why? The short answer is probably political correctness. How much carping would the ACLU and other “civil rights” organizations do if a Middle Eastern man was dragged off a plane? Suppose the man had no criminal record? Would there be reasonable suspicion which would lead to probable cause, which would support arresting the flagged individual?

Probably not. If he had done nothing wrong in the past, and exhibited no outward threats or other suspicious behavior, there was no reason to arrest him. Law enforcement was helpless in this case.

What about the airlines themselves? It seems somewhat reasonable to me that the airlines should be able to refuse boarding to an individual who comes up as suspicious. They probably would, if they could avoid getting the crap sued out of them. The sad truth of the matter is the ACLU would be on them like white on rice. How dare they discriminate against a person of Middle Eastern descent?

Everyone who flies today is still at risk. If the airlines drag people off who MIGHT be problems, a lawsuit is imminent. Somebody’s feelings are going to get hurt, and some lawyer will think it is compensable. However, I would bet no more planes would smash into buildings.

I have to give some credit here. We have not had any more terrorist attacks here since 9-11. I wonder if that is because President Bush took the fight to them in their own backyard? I would like to think so.

I think if you look suspicious, you probably should be treated that way. Stereotypes get a bad rap, but they are survival mechanisms of the first order. Unfortunately, Middle Easterners should probably have to deal with some additional scrutiny. Do not blame us; blame your kindred, who seem intent on killing everyone who is not Muslim. Is that discrimination, or is it just good sense? Perhaps an offended Muslim or person of Middle Eastern descent might try putting heat on those who ruined it for everyone else.

The last white guy I am aware of that hijacked a plane was a bank robber named D.B. Cooper. He jumped out of the plane without killing anyone on board, and smeared himself all over the Rockies. Granted, whitey might hijack a plane every once in awhile, but I would bet good money that 99% of the hijackings that have occurred since commercial aviation began were the fault of Muslims.

I think even a card-carrying liberal might get their feelings hurt worse if a plane they were on plows into a landmark, flown by one of these lovely people the ACLU won some money for.

Speaking personally, I do not want to be on a plane with a passenger who has been tagged as a potential terrorist. In fact, I would pay more money to fly an airline that guarantees nobody who has to go through extra security steps gets on a plane.

I think Delta should start a whole new ad campaign, after putting in some strict new guidelines for passengers. If you come up on the computer system as a potential problem, you do not fly Delta. If you look like a potential terrorist, you are going to be searched so thoroughly the security people will know the size of your prostate. Sorry, but you do not have to look like Osama to get the rubber-glove treatment. Cat Stevens is fair game, too.

Even then, you might not get to fly. If you do, you might have to settle for flying naked in handcuffs, locked in a special cell in cargo until the flight lands.

Delta’s new slogan can be an acronym: “We’re Delta, the terrorist-free airline. You can trust Delta, because the name means ‘Don’t Even Let Them Aboard.’”

I would pay big money for that sort of assurance. I doubt I would be flying alone.

No comments: