William Hamilton – Airline security: The system worked – for al-Qaida
January 6, 2010
When the wealthy Nigerian businessman, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, learned that his son, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, had left his $2 million apartment in England for Yemen to join al-Qaida, the father informed Nigerian security officials and the U.S. Embassy.
Undeterred, young Umar, with no luggage, paid $3,000 cash for a one-way ticket to cross three-continents: from Africa, to Europe to North America. The radical Islamist walked right through Nigerian and Dutch security carrying a concealed detonator syringe and wearing underwear stuffed with PETN explosive.
Later, Umar told authorities in Detroit that he had intended to kill himself and his 278 fellow passengers. But he messed in his pants – so to speak – inadvertently, setting fire to his underwear. (So now, if and when he gains access to those 72 virgins, he may have some, well, performance issues.)
Granted, airline security is less than perfect; however, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) really has been trying to improve safety and also trying to speed up the flow of passengers to catch their flights. For example, a few years ago, the TSA conducted a two-year test of what it called the Registered Traveler Program.
The results were promising enough that the TSA allowed three private companies to establish Verified Identity Pass Programs at selected airports for individuals who were willing to submit to retina scans, fingerprinting, and to provide personal background information akin to getting a top-secret security clearance. Wonder Wife and I were among some 250,000 who jumped through all the hoops. We even paid the hefty annual fee.
Armed with our Clear Pass ID and tickets, we never once found anyone ahead of us in the special Clear Pass lane. After having our retinas scanned to prove our retinas were the same retinas scanned during the enrollment process, a Clear Pass staffer put our luggage on the conveyor belt for the regular TSA luggage/shoe X-ray. Shoes back on, we were good to go. Unfortunately, all three vendors went out of business.
But given the success that young Umar had in evading every security screening tool known to man – to include the fact that his father had alerted the U.S. Embassy to his son’s al-Qaida involvement – maybe it is time for the TSA to take another look at a Registered Traveler Program.
What if we could identify, in advance, the folks who pose absolutely no airline security risks? That way, the poor TSA screeners who are, after all, just following orders, would not have to take knitting needles away from aging grandmothers and, maybe, even give back my Gerber Tool.
What would the keen intellect of Sherlock Holmes deduce from the history of these airline atrocities? Media pundit Ann Coulter must read Sherlock Holmes because in a recent column Miss Coulter observed: “Since Muslims took down Pam Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, every attack on a commercial airliner has been committed by foreign-born Muslim men with the same hair color, eye color and skin color. Half of them have been named Mohammed.” (My word, Dr. Watson, she may have found a clue!)
Almost for certain, the Keystone Kop failures that allowed a known radical-Islamist to almost commit a “man-caused disaster” (the Obamatons contend terrorist acts no longer exist) and snuff out the lives of 278 airline passengers will not cause anyone to be fired or even demoted. What is absolutely for certain is that those who could so easily be excluded from any kind of airline security concern will now be subjected to even more invasive procedures and needless delays.
Airline travel tip: Buy one of those Keffiyahs like the late Yasser Arafat used to wear on his head. That might work better than the now-defunct Clear Pass Verified Identity Pass Program.
– Nationally syndicated columnist and retired Army officer William Hamilton is a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval War College, a former Research Fellow at the U.S. Army War College and is a member of the Association for Intelligence Officers.