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Archive for December, 2009

Maureen Dowd in the Times said it the best in a recent editorial:

If we can’t catch a Nigerian with a powerful explosive powder in his oddly feminine-looking underpants and a syringe full of acid, a man whose own father had alerted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, a traveler whose ticket was paid for in cash and who didn’t check bags, whose visa renewal had been denied by the British, who had studied Arabic in Al Qaeda sanctuary Yemen, whose name was on a counterterrorism watch list, who can we catch?

Seems oddly like the recent White House Party Crashers, when in spite of the mission of protecting our President, the Secret Service failed, and no one has been held accountable — i.e. fired.  I suspect that in this case, no one will either, because the charge of “systemic failure” spreads the responsibility around too far and too thin, so in the end, we just keep right on rolling along.

Except of course for the usual “locking the barn door” reaction by TSA.  Just as post-Richard-Reed, we all dutifully take off our shoes at the security checkpoints, 60 million people a year uselessly inconvenienced because of one failed terrorist attempt, now will we be taking off our pants for them?  And so, international travelers (only) will not be able to use the rest room in the last hour, or have a book or magazine in their laps?  This stuff doesn’t protect us, it just costs us.

And then, the next idea is millimeter-wavelength or backscatter x-ray machines to do full-body scans.  Just for the record, the potential for these images to be captured and disseminated to perverts and voyeurs is virtually 100%.  Please — the images that have been released to the press to show how these machines don’t really invade your privacy have had the genitals blocked out, which, folks, they won’t be when the machines are actually in use.

This reminds me of my time as a systems consultant to manufacturers.  One of the mantras we preached was “you can’t inspect-in quality, you have to build it in” and that’s the case here.  Trying to catch terrorists at an airport checkpoint, or worse yet at the gate, is just trying to inspect-in quality.  Per the quote above, you need to find them before they get to the gate.

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