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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Can We Really Achieve Airport Security?

In the wake of disturbing news about a security breach at Newark Airport, in which a TSA officer abandoned his post and surveillance cameras failed, Congressman Charlie Dent is among those who are upset. As the Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection, he'll be visiting Newark Airport as part of a Congressional Delegation next week.

Dent makes this observation: “We are reminded yet again of the high stakes of aviation security, having narrowly averted a catastrophe in the skies over Detroit. We must reinforce with the Transportation Security Administration that their duties have life or death consequences and ensure the appropriate equipment, training and policies are in place to protect the American public. I will demand accountability of those who are not up to the task of protecting the traveling public.”

I understand this need to be vigilant, and credit Congressman Dent and Senator Lautenberg for being concerned. But I also think we have to recognize that, no matter what security precautions we install, there will always be failure. We seem to have forgotten that reality.

David Brooks, in a recent NYTimes op-ed, claims we need look no further than our own military, whose mistakes during WWII resulted in tragedies like American planes bombing our own troops. We did not get lathered up, recognizing that any human institution is necessarily flawed.

But today, we demand perfection. "[W]e seem to expect perfection from government and then throw temper tantrums when it is not achieved. We seem to be in the position of young adolescents — who believe mommy and daddy can take care of everything, and then grow angry and cynical when it becomes clear they can't."

So now, we'll be installing full body scanners and searching people a gazillion times and then will wonder what went wrong the next time.


Anonymous said...

I read that we spend ten times as much on Afghanistan as we do on airport security. So basically we are expending ten times the effort in creating situations overseas for people to want to attack us, than we do in protecting ourselves. You get what you pay for, Charlie.

rylock. said...

If Dent wants to reinforce the Transportation Security Administration, maybe he should tell one of his Republican colleagues in the Senate to take his hold off of Obama's nominee for head of the TSA, simply because he's "scared they might unionize."


Bernie O'Hare said...

Rylock, My point here is that we are trying to achieve the impossible. No matter what safeguars are in place, there will always be some human error.

Anonymous said...

Is Dent more concerend about unions than security? I find that hard to believe.

rylock. said...

Bernie, I know what you were trying to point out and I don't entirely disagree, I was just making a separate point.

I think the politicization of this story from the right is what's really interesting.

And Anon 12:43, I can't say that Dent is more concerned about unions than security, since he resides in the House. I can, however, say that for all Republicans in the Senate. Even though it is DeMint that is placing the hold, his Republican colleagues could easily make his hold irrelevant if they voted against filibustering Obama's nominee.

Anonymous said...

Those who think unionizing the retards who provide pretend security will improve security don't really care about security.

We need to diligently profile Middle Eastern-looking passengers and stop pretending we're not under attack from radical Muslims. Smiths, Joneses and O'Rileys are not committing these acts.

Yeah, I know. I'm a racist for evaluating a mountain of empirical evidence and wanting to keep my loved ones and myself alive. I should just accept my fate and hope to travel with "peaceful" ones.

Anonymous said...

it will never be perfect, ohair - but we have to try. unionizing them will only create higher paid lazy people.

Anonymous said...

There is no more heavily targeted country for terrorism than Israel. Yet no flight ever leaving Ben Gurion Airport has been hijacked, and no El Al flight has been attacked by terrorists in over 30 years.

We have to profile passengers. That doesnt' mean just ones who look middle eastern, but also where people have been. How much they travel. Ask questions. Probe for changing answers.

Our entire focus is based on keeping bad 'things' off the plane. Israel's is keeping bad people off the plane.

We need to do the same thing. And that is going to offend someone. And that's tough.

The Banker

Catharine said...

It is absurd to insist the government be an absolute guarantor of airline safety.

David Brooks had a great op-ed on this - interesting observation about the lack of maturity in the response.


Anonymous said...

It was revealed on last night's news broadcasts that this TSA candidate a poster mentions has not one but two questionable issues in his past.

Anonymous said...

Catharine, agreed that there will never be absolutes - the bad guys are always working to find ways around security measures and sometimes they'll win.

But I stand by my comment that 'politically correct' security is not the best way. And why do we feel the need to recreate something here? What Israel does works - copy it.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

We COULD do what Israel does --- DO NOT screw around in the slightest.

Wimpy progressive liberals obsessed with political correctness are not prepared to do what it takes to achieve and maintain Israel's level of national security with respect to its airlines.

So O'Hare has it about right, "we are trying to achieve the impossible."


Anonymous said...

Interesting question Bernie, but I will follow with this: security is an value that matters for Americans, just as freedom and equality are values that matter to Americans. We can have philosophical discussions about whether we can ever truly reach the values that we strive for, but it doesn't stop us from trying. American visionaries, for generations, have sought to achieve a more perfect union, focusing on those values. I don't have a problem with the attempts to continue those efforts. Human institutions, as you suggest, do fail. But our resolve as Americans to achieve our values is what matters.

So the congressman and senator deserve credit for their follow up and their pursuit of what may be a difficult value to achieve.


LVCI said...

anonymous 9:58 AM said Wimpy progressive liberals obsessed with political correctness are not prepared.. maintain Israel's level of national security

Israel still does not yet have a completed constitution to deal with all basic human rights

Personally I kind of like the idea of having one. If that makes me "WIMPY" so be it!

Stating the obvious Ben Franklin said, " He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither

Security is all fine and dandy but Israeli courts pretty much make it up as they go along.

When Ben signed that document they had their own problems with "terrorists" from foreign nations at that time too and it's worked for us so far.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Catharine, I agree about the Brooks op-ed, and linked to it myself. It's one of his better essays.

Anonymous said...

Israel is missile attacked each and every day. They have been in a state of war since 1949 and they act like it when conducting airline security. The US is a very slow learner due to its obsession with political correctness. Our only driving foreign policy seems to be keeping a political promise to close Gitmo. We're ignoring real threats and won't even use the word terrorism anymore. The latest foreign contingency man made disaster attempt almost killed 250 people and took out another major city's skyline. I'm pretty sure the guy wasn't Irish. Well, maybe shanty Irish.

rylock. said...

Do Republicans really think it's justified for DeMint to put a hold on the TSA chief because he's scared (with no actual basis for his theory) that people will unionize?

You do realize that Errol Southers (TSA Chief Nominee) had plans to do new things for airline security last year if he were nominated, right? I mean, those things might have prevented the Christmas Day bombing and it might not have, but we would have at least been in a better place than we are now.

I just think that willing to risk your nation's security because of an unfounded fear of people unionizing is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Rylock, let me ask you a question - were you just as indignant when the Ds held up confirmations of Bush appointees for similar reasons?

The Banker

rylock. said...


Look back on how many holds Dems put on Bush appointees and how many holds Republicans are putting on Obama appointees, then get back to me.

Anonymous said...

Banker, did any of those stalled confirmations put American lives at risk? Perhaps "Brownie" could have been held up and a few more lives saved in New Orleans.

Holding up a key appointment b/c of union fears? Sen. DeMint is derilect in his duty to help protect America. Period. This is nobody's fault but DeMint's. DeMint should be held for treason.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, like I said :

Israel doesn't have problems with their airlines.

Who knows the story of Entebbe?

Any lessons to be learned there?

Who knows what happened to the Black September terrorists who survived the airport shootout at Munich in 1972.

I do. (Hooray for Mossad!)

When was the last time anybody messed with the Israeli Olympic team, LVCI?

IPP (aka ANON 9:58 for those not paying close attention)

Anonymous said...

Rylock, I'm not going to do your homework for you. The point I am making is both parties engage in this behavior.

But to just touch on it, Ds held up literally dozens of judicial appointments during Bush's presidency. This included holding up perfectly qualified, non controversial candidates for no reason other than their opposition to other candidates.

So I ask again, were you just as indignant then as now?

It's very tiring to hear either party spout how pure they are and how evil the other party is. I am also tired of the attitude that beliefs don't matter, that if you stick to your beliefs you are an 'obstructionist' or worse, 'traitor.'

Oh, and by the way, Southers gave Congress misleading information about incidents in which he inappropriately accessed a federal database, possibly in violation of privacy laws, documents obtained by The Washington Post show.

As inconvenient as you think the rules are when they work against you, they are there for a reason.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

Obama moonies defend Southers at their own peril. They'll quickly sacrifice Americans' security to get a few more union dues, but this is about much more.

Well known right-wing tea bagger Jonathan Turley (this is a sarcasm for all the humorless liberals) reports on this lying piece of garbage who wants the trust of Congress and the American people:


Anonymous said...

DeMint and tea-baggers continue to hold up the confirmation of a man that would make our air travel safer. They should all be thrown in jail or hung for being traitors. Anybody who defends their criminal behavior should join them.

LVCI said...

"When was the last time anybody messed with the Israeli Olympic team, LVCI?"

What the hell does that have anything to do with "airport security"?

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to note the dramatic differences between the 1972 Summer Olympic Games and the 1974 World Cup of Soccer, both held in Munich, with respect to security.

Think anybody learned a lesson?

Don't remember the '74 World Cup being interupted by any militant groups with ties to Nobel Peace Prize Winner YASSER ARAFAT's Fatah organization...


Anonymous said...


You are totally missing the point, bro.


Anonymous said...

Let's see...a young man with a muslim name is being radicalized in an enemy territory, his dad tells us- we do nothing. The guy pays $2000 cash for a plane ticket (one-way)- we do nothing. The guy has no coat, even though he's heading to the upper midwest in winter- we do nothing.

There is no hope for us. We will suffer a catastophic attack equal to the 9/11 event.

PS- The cabinet level leader of homeland security feels the system worked.

Meanwhile, I and others will suffer the indignities of having our gonads probed at airports because of this.


Anonymous said...

A documented liar and abuser of civil liberties is going to make us safer? His own country doesn't trust him:


Anonymous said...

While I want Carter --- I mean Obama gone, it will be of no comfort to get the White House back after this group of amateur policy geeks loses the office following a devastating terror attack on their watch. But we all know it's going to happen.

What American city will be made to pay for Carter's --- I mean Obama's failure?

rylock. said...


I've already done my "homework." I was just pointing out the fact that you obviously haven't, if you truly believe that Dems holding up Bush appointees are similar to Republicans holding up Obama appointees. And, based on your response, you still haven't -- or you have and are just choose to leave it out of your argument, because it is detriment to your case.

I actually just wrote what the nominee comparisons are and erased it. I'll see if you actually care enough to look it up. I'm betting that you don't, because you don't want to compromise your position. And if you do, good luck with the spin!

This isn't even a question about appointees, this is solely about obstructionism. The Republican party wants the public to see the Democratic party as unable to govern and this, amongst other tactics, is one way to do so.

Try to call me out on contradicting myself. I don't think it's contradictory to want to remove the filibuster. I'm even a proponent of legislation removing the filibuster 6-8 years from now, when we have no idea what party will be in charge of congress, or who will be in the Presidency.

rylock. said...

The cabinet level leader of homeland security feels the system worked.

I agree that people fucked up and we should have caught this, but look at what Napolitano said. She did a slew of interviews that day, and to my knowledge, the one that Republicans are touting is where she didn't explain herself after saying that the "system works."

On every other program (and obviously every one after this quote was blown all over the media outlets), she clearly stated that the system worked after the attempted terrorist attack happened. That meaning that everybody was briefed quickly, all airplanes in the sky and on the ground knew of the incident, all screenings were heightened, etc.

Also, Tom Ridge agrees that the criticism of her for this mistake is largely unfounded.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Rylock, did my homework and we disagree.

Now what would have happened is we'd have gone back/forth on individual nominees - you'll show your point, I'll show mine, over and over and over again. That will prove that neither party occupies any moral high ground, and they both act in (to use your term) an 'obstructionist' manner. But then you'll ignore all the evidence and claim the moral high ground anyway.

There, that paragraph saves us about 6 post / responses! Ah to be young and idealistic again...

And you are so wrong on removing the filibuster it's incredible. You can't be serious that a 51/49 majority should be able to cram anything it wants through??? That would be absolute insanity. 60-40 is a mandate. 51-49 is not. No party should have the ability to do anything on their own with that slim a majority.

The Banker

rylock. said...


Sorry, bud. I missed the statistics from the "homework" that you apparently did. Where are they?

Anonymous said...

Rylock, here's but 1 example of information out there that refers to the practice going on with both parties - it's from the NY Times which is no doubt another bible to you -


It references the crux of my argument - in addition to what you're talking about regarding Obama's appointments, you'll see that in 2001 the Ds held up appointing most of Bush's national security team right up to the tragedy of 9/11. This was confirmed and cited as a problem that needed to be addressed in the 9/11 Commission report.

So it would seem to me that being 'obstructionist' right up to the worst terror attack in our nation's history would be a big deal. But you know what? I don't blame the Ds for that. I blame Washington, Rs and Ds alike. This crap goes on both ways, it's dangerous to our nation, and it needs to stop.

So I'll keep making my point - stop trying to take the moral high ground, both parties engage in this practice.

The Banker

rylock. said...


We obviously don't know each other very well, so it's understandable that you would think that I only attack Republicans for being Republicans. While I would probably never vote for one (because I sometimes have trouble voting for Democrats that aren't as liberal as I'd like), I really do strive extremely hard to remain consistent on any issue that I take a stance on. "Would I still feel this way if the situation were reversed?" is usually one of the first things that goes through my head.

The fact is that there's never been a political climate like this in congress. Ever. It really is straight-up obstructionism. Sure, there's been obstructionism attempts before, but never the blanket that we're seeing with this congress. Looking back to the Clinton years, there were approximately 10-20 cloture motions filed per session of congress. During Bush, the average was about 15. Obama? Try 60. That's a 400% increase!

This is purely for political reasons, as I've said before, because if the Republican party can effectively show that the Democratic party is unable to govern, they're going to make much larger gains come the next election. It's a simple strategy. Your analysis doesn't match up, because it the Democrats, under Bush, didn't use this strategy.

I propose to remove the filibuster, so that game either will be unable to play, or at the very least, much harder to play. Since the minority party (be it the Democrats or Republicans) will mostly be unable to shut down any piece of legislation simply by banding together to obstruct the system to stop the majority party from governing.

It will provide the minority party with actual incentive to bring ideas to the table and work with the majority party.

And I don't blame Republicans for their tactics in today's political climate, because it really is the fastest way to get themselves back into power. But getting rid of the filibuster is the fastest way to get rid of tactics like this one and change the ridiculousness that is our political landscape.

As for your 51-49 theory, do you then think that the Bush tax cuts in 2003 shouldn't have been allowed to pass? The Bush tax cuts only had 50 votes in the Senate! Not even a majority! The needed Dick to come down and push them over the top.

There are ways to get what you want in the Senate without 60 votes. Taking away the filibuster will force people to actually govern -- be it Democrat or Republican.

Anonymous said...

rylock is locked in an academic argument that ignores real problems with the very dangerously untrustworthy nominee he's chosen to defend on behalf of labor concerns - and at the expense of Americans' safety. This is what we have trying to act like they're in charge of things .....


Anonymous said...

The Republicans don't care about security, they are only focused on their narrow agenda. The R sheep follow blindly.

Mr Allen said...


First off the idea that somehow a new TSA chief would have pevented this is ridiculess. Would he have put all the info together to stop it? Of course not. If the HS sec. couldn't, and she had far more info than the TSA chief could ever hope to get, there's no way he would of. It sounds like a nice argument, but it's rubbish.

Second, you complain about the R's doing nothing but obstructing. OK, fair enough. But when the D's ignore their input, shut them out of meetings and legislation crafting, like healthcare, what other option do they have? Obama and co. leave them no choice.

And finally, your argument about the filibuster is really weak. Far greater minds than yours or mine came up with it. It's worked, and been part of the game of politics for a long time. The reason for it is to prevent exactly what you propose. That's why it's necessary, and will continue to be. And I find it amusing that you seek to do away with it, while your party pushes for legislation for super majorities to be required to overturn healthcare. Don't you see a bit of a contradiction there?

Anonymous said...

Even without the TSA airport theater, I'd still fly whenever I needed to. Flying remains the safest of all transportation mediums.

All we accomplish with this searching and profiling and squabbling is tell the terrorists what they are doing wrong. We're making them more clever by the minute.

What do we do when a suicide bomber blows herself up while standing amidst the crowd waiting to go through airport TSA screening, killing hundreds of innocents in the process?

I hope someone is thinking about that scenario - because it will happen.

rylock. said...

"First off the idea that somehow a new TSA chief would have pevented this is ridiculess. Would he have put all the info together to stop it? Of course not. If the HS sec. couldn't, and she had far more info than the TSA chief could ever hope to get, there's no way he would of. It sounds like a nice argument, but it's rubbish."

If you read what I wrote, I didn't suggest that a new TSA chief would have stopped the Christmas Day bomber. I said it was possible, because it is. Maybe if we had a fully-functioning TSA staff, somebody would have caught the misspelling of "Abdulmutallab," which apparently would have kept him off the plane.

Obviously, I'm not saying that-that would have definitely happened. But that also means that you are unable to say that it definitely could not have happened.

"Second, you complain about the R's doing nothing but obstructing. OK, fair enough. But when the D's ignore their input, shut them out of meetings and legislation crafting, like healthcare, what other option do they have? Obama and co. leave them no choice."

Look up how many Republican amendments were accepted in the Senate HELP committee. The Senate Finance Committee tried to make the process fully bipartisan, by completely crafting the legislation with three Republicans and three Democrats. Only three Senate Republicans were even open to the idea of crafting the stimulus. Obama met with Senate and House Republicans more in his first week than Bush did in his first year in office.

The fact is that Republicans had this strategy on November 5th, 2008 and started it on January 20th, 2009. It's their strategy, and I don't fault them for a strategy. Like I've said many times, it's easily the best way for Republicans to regain a majority.

And don't tell me that this is the way things are done. When cloture motions are filed at 400% the rate at when Bush was in office, it's clearly the Republican strategy for Obama's term.

"And finally, your argument about the filibuster is really weak. Far greater minds than yours or mine came up with it. It's worked, and been part of the game of politics for a long time. The reason for it is to prevent exactly what you propose. That's why it's necessary, and will continue to be. And I find it amusing that you seek to do away with it, while your party pushes for legislation for super majorities to be required to overturn healthcare. Don't you see a bit of a contradiction there?"

So my argument is weak, but your argument is that the filibuster should be retained because "smarter minds came up with it?" Interesting.

Do you know why the filibuster was started? From those "smarter minds" that came up with it? The filibuster was originated in 1851 by congressmen who stalled for their fellow congressmen to get back to DC, so they could vote for or against a bill. That was necessary back then, obviously, because they didn't have the transportation that we have now -- and it took some congressmen days to get back to DC.

And I do not find a contradiction. A contradiction were be to if I would have proposed that a filibuster be removed solely for a Democratic administration, but reinvoked for Republican administrations.

Removing the filibuster will be good for governance on both sides.

rylock. said...

"Maybe if we had a fully-functioning TSA staff, somebody would have caught the misspelling of "Abdulmutallab," which apparently would have kept him off the plane."

I just wanted to clarify this statement really quickly, since I didn't explain it very well.

I know that TSA has no jurisdiction over stuff like this. From what I know right now, it's a blame-game between State and NCTC.

But I was just trying to generalize the fact when you have more people in place that deal with this kind of stuff, there's a better system in place for acquiring and passing along information -- and even though TSA wouldn't have dealt with it directly, they could have easily indirectly helped with the name-spelling.

And then there's the other much more direct argument that having a fully-functioning TSA could have implemented new ideas that would have stopped Abdulmutallab even before the name-spelling problem.

Neither of those are definites -- but they would help. And they certainly wouldn't hurt.

Anonymous said...

The guy is a documented untrustworthy liar who's abused his power and violated another's civil liberties.

Per TSA hiring rules, he's ineligible to be an airport screener.

And rylock thinks he's effective and wants him in charge?

Anonymous said...

Of course.

Liberalism is a mental disease.

Why do you think universal health care is important and PRONTO AT ALL COSTS AND BY ALL LESS-THAN-TRANSPARENT means?

People are suffering, particularly Kool-Aid addicts.

Help is required.