Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Right Profiling

The Toronto Star has in interesting article on Israeli airport security and what we might learn from it. You've got to admit, they've been pretty effective in recent years.

The approach, in a nutshell, is centered around looking at people, not just their bags or their shoes or their toiletries. There's profiling, sure, but it's profiling based on behavior:

The first layer of actual security that greets travellers at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked two questions: How are you? Where are you coming from?"Two benign questions. The questions aren't important. The way people act when they answer them is," [transportation security consultant Rafi] Sela said. Officers are looking for nervousness or other signs of "distress" — behavioural profiling.

And as you get deeper into the airport, personnel continue to check you out for signs that you might be about to do something nutty:

You are now in the terminal. As you approach your airline check-in desk, a trained interviewer takes your passport and ticket. They ask a series of questions: Who packed your luggage? Has it left your side?
"The whole time, they are looking into your eyes — which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not. It takes 20, 25 seconds,"

When you finally get to the luggage check:

"First, it's fast — there's almost no line. That's because they're not looking for liquids, they're not looking at your shoes. They're not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you," said Sela. "Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes ... and that's how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys."

And here's the kicker: It's faster.

The goal at Ben-Gurion airport is to move fliers from the parking lot to the airport lounge in a maximum of 25 minutes.

So why don't we do it this way? The article cites bureaucratic inertia and resistance to change, which is certainly part of it. But I think there's something more going on.

See, in order to make a system like that work, you've got to hire smart people and you've got to train them well. And if you want people like that, you've got to pay them well.

A smart, trained workforce demanding a decent wage is the last thing people like Jim DeMint want...hell, they might do something worse than blowing up a plane. They might actually join a union.

You get what you pay for.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Wow, They're Not All Crazy

Republican Lugar Says Cheney’s Criticism of Obama Is ‘Unfair’ -
Jan. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, defended President Barack Obama’s handling of recent terrorism threats, taking issue with former Vice President Dick Cheney’s criticism.

“It’s unfair,” Lugar said in an interview for Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “I think the president is focused.”

Cheney, who frequently has led Republican attacks on the Democratic president since leaving office a year ago, told Politico on Dec. 29 that Obama “is trying to pretend we are not at war” with a “low-key response” to the Dec. 25 attempt to ignite a bomb aboard a flight to Detroit.

To the contrary, Obama has demonstrated “firmness” and “decisiveness,” Lugar, who represents Indiana, said. “That’s been the antidote to the criticism.”

Still, the U.S. may be focusing too much on Afghanistan at a time when al-Qaeda is finding havens in other hot spots such as Yemen and Somalia, Lugar said. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian indicted in the Detroit plane plot, allegedly received his training in Yemen.

“I suspect that we will have to try to think through why we went to Afghanistan,” Lugar, 77, said.

Now see, this is how you do it. Reasoned criticism, credit where credit is due, some idea that we can have a rational debate. As opposed to hysterical demands that a suspect be tortured even though he's already cooperating, and lies about how the President Obama doesn't use the word "terrorism," or that he doesn't think we're at war?

How long you think it will be before some teabagger starts demanding the RNC cut off Lugar's campaigning funding for insufficient purity?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Big Lie

The Washington Monthly:

The accusation that the president and his team decline to use the words "terror" or "terrorism" wasn't just some off-hand line uttered by a Fox News personality -- it was a charge levied repeatedly by Republican House members, senators, and a certain former vice president, all of whom insisted with a straight face that the Commander in Chief refuses to use a word that he's repeatedly over and over again throughout his presidency.

The entire basis for two weeks of GOP accusations is nothing but a pathetic lie. There's simply no other way to put it.

Push back with the facts. The so-called 'liberal" media isn't going to do it.

In Which I Actually Praise The Weekly Standard

Credit where credit is due: The Weekly Standard is apparently the only news outlet that's noticed this:
But the media is missing the bigger story in Yazid’s speech [praising the suicide bombers who killed CIA agents]...

Al Qaeda has confirmed that Abdullah Said al Libi the leader of the Lashkar al Zil, or the Shadow Army, the terror group's military organization along the Afghan and Pakistani border was among those killed. Al Libi is one of al Qaeda’s most senior commanders and was behind al Qaeda most brazen and deadly attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. For more on al Libi, his successor, Ilyas Kashmiri, and the Lashkar al Zil, see this report at The Long War Journal.

When US Fighters killed Japanese Admiral Yamamoto in World War II it was front page news. Time magazine opined that

When the name of the man who killed Admiral Yamamoto is released, the U.S. will have a new hero. Said one veteran of Pacific service: "The only better news would be a bullet through Hitler."

But our so-called "liberal" media--you know, the people who are supposedly "in the tank" for Obama--are apparently more interested in Crasher-gate, Tiger Woods' mistresses, and serving as stenographers for political opportunists like Hoekstra, DeMint and Cheney who are the real people trying to pretend that we're not at war...and furthermore, pretending we never score any victories.

Another One Bites the Dust

The Long War Journal: Al Qaeda has confirmed that the US killed the leader of the Lashkar al Zil, or the Shadow Army, the terror group's military organization along the Afghan and Pakistani border.

Mustafa Abu Yazid, al Qaeda's leader in Afghanistan, said that Abdullah Said al Libi was killed in a US airstrike in Pakistan. Yazid confirmed that Al Libi was killed in a tape praising the suicide attack on the CIA base in Khost. Yazid also confirmed that Saleh al Somali, al Qaeda's former external operations chief, was also killed in a US attack.

Bet these guys don't think President Obama's "pretending we're not at war."

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Quote of the Day

Dana King, commenting at
I'm operating under King's Corollary to the Golden Rule:

I treat everyone as I would like to be treated myself, and grant all other the same privilege. Therefore, when I encounter someone who is an inconsiderate asshole, I can only assume that's how they would like to be treated in turn, and it would be impolite of me to treat them any other way.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Chutzpah Mavens of Greater Wingnuttia

Latest Newspaper Column:

There's a word in Yiddish that's been on my mind a lot lately: chutzpah.

Leo Rosten's "The Joys of Yiddish" defines chutzpah as "gall, brazen nerve, effrontery." The classic illustration of the concept is the story of the boy who kills both parents and then asks the court for mercy because he's an orphan.

In the recent debate over health-care reform, the members of the Republican caucus are giving that fictional defendant a run for his money.

As you may remember, different proposals for health-care reform have been enacted in the House and the Senate. Not a single Republican voted "yes" to the Senate proposal, and only one voted for the House one. One reason given for the Rs' opposition was that the proposals were too big and too expensive, even though the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports that the proposals will actually reduce the deficit in the long run.

Only one journalist in the so-called "liberal" media, Charles Babington of The AP, has dared ask the question: So how come you guys are so opposed to what you describe as a big, expensive government medical-care program when you voted for the huge, costly and deficit-expanding Medicare prescription drug benefit, which created a $9.4 trillion unfunded liability over the next 75 years (according to the Medicare trustees)?

The answers from Republican senators varied, but all were classic illustrations of chutzpah:

-- We Were All Wild and Free Back Then: Orrin Hatch of Utah claims, "We were concerned about it, because it certainly added to the deficit, no question." He then goes on to say, however, that "it was standard practice not to pay for things" in 2003. Geez, I wish I'd known that. I could have scarfed myself a new car.

-- Because Shut Up, That's Why: Olympia Snowe of Maine, an alleged moderate who the White House hoped in vain might provide a crucial swing vote, would apparently rather not talk about her own vote for an expensive government-run health-care plan. "Dredging up history is not the way to move forward," she said.

-- That Was Then, This Is Now: Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio admits that those who see hypocrisy "can legitimately raise that issue." But, he says, "the economy is in worse shape and Americans are more anxious." Well, geez, George, if you run around telling people the sky is falling, as your caucus has been doing for months, I guess it's not surprising that people are anxious. Not to mention the fact that the economy crashed at the end of eight years of Republicans in the White House.

Of course, mentioning that last fact is just like waving a red flag to the chutzpah mavens of Greater Wingnuttia, like former Dick Cheney staffer Mary Matalin.

Recently on CNN, Matalin bitterly complained that President Obama "never gives a speech where he doesn't explicitly or implicitly look backwards," then went on to say: "We inherited a recession from President Clinton and we inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation's history. And President Bush dealt with it."

I have to take a moment and just admire the sheer gall of that statement. First, there's the brazen effrontery involved in complaining about Obama mentioning that he inherited a bad economy from George Dubbya Bush, then, in the very next sentence, complaining that her bosses had inherited a bad economy from Bill Clinton. Then there's the fact that the recession Matalin claimed they "inherited" didn't begin until March of 2001.

But wait, there's more. Matalin claims that the Bush administration "inherited" a terrorist attack that occurred eight months into Dubbya's Reign of Error, eight months in which his top counterterrorism adviser was frantically trying to get a meeting on the threat, eight months during which Dubbya was handed a memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike In U.S." and responded by dismissively telling the CIA officer who delivered it, "OK, now you've covered your ass."

But, you know, it's bad form to talk about the past, except when you're trying to blame a Democrat. It's just horrible and partisan to try and place blame for a terrorist attack, unless you're trying to pin it on Bill Clinton.

Why isn't this hypocrisy? Because shut up, that's why.

Now THAT's chutzpah.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

So Obama's Not Treating Terrorism Seriously Enough, Eh?

U.S. Kills Top Qaeda Militant in Southern Somalia, September 14, 2009

NAIROBI, Kenya — American commandos killed one of the most wanted Islamic militants in Africa in a daylight raid in southern
Somalia on Monday, according to American and Somali officials, an indication of the Obama administration’s willingness to use combat troops strategically against Al Qaeda’s growing influence in the region.

TalibanLeader In Pakistan Killed by Predator Strike, August 7, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — American and Pakistani officials said Friday they were increasingly convinced that an American drone strike two days earlier had killed Baitullah Mehsud, Pakistan’s enemy No.1 and the leader of its feared Taliban movement.

Terror Case Is Called One of the Most Serious in Years (September 24, 2009)

WASHINGTON — Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, senior government officials have announced dozens of terrorism cases that on closer examination seemed to diminish as legitimate threats. The accumulating evidence against a Denver airport shuttle driver suggests he may be different, with some investigators calling his case the most serious in years.

Documents filed in Brooklyn against the driver, Najibullah Zazi, contend he bought chemicals needed to build a bomb — hydrogen peroxide, acetone and hydrochloric acid — and in doing so, Mr. Zazi took a critical step made by few other terrorism suspects.

If government allegations are to be believed, Mr. Zazi, a legal immigrant from Afghanistan, had carefully prepared for a terrorist attack. He attended a Qaeda training camp in Pakistan, received training in explosives and stored in his laptop computer nine pages of instructions for making bombs from the same kind of chemicals he had bought.

Hosam Maher Husein Smadi was arrested Sept. 24, 2009, after authorities said he parked a vehicle laden with government-supplied fake explosives in the underground parking garage of Fountain Place, a 60-story tower in downtown Dallas.
The arrest was part of an FBI sting operation that began more than six months earlier, when an agent monitoring an online extremist Web site discovered Smadi espousing jihad against the United States.

Steve Benen over at Political Animal Summarizes it nicely:

President Obama hasn't just ordered predator-drone strikes to target terrorists, he's also used ground forces to capture and kill terrorist leaders. What's more, the administration has had great success in taking terrorist suspects into custody before they could launch their planned attacks, as the Najibullah Zazi, Talib Islam, and Hosam Maher Husein Smadi incidents help demonstrate.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, was quoted in the editorial as saying the entire Obama administration considers itself "first responders dealing with the aftermath of an attack," while Republicans "believe in a forward-looking approach to stopping these attacks before they happen."

Even the most rabid partisan should be able to notice that this is idiotic and the exact opposite of reality.

Guess Krauthammer, DeMint, Cheney, Hoekstra, King, et. al. must have just "forgotten" about the successes we've had this year. Or, they're, you know, lying.

Push back with the facts.

The WaPo's Charles Krauthammer Is Lying To You

The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer continues to perpetuate the lie that President Obama is weak on national security because he no longer uses the words "terrorism" or describes what's going on as a "War on Terror." This lie--and I will repeat the word a lot, because it's important to call it what it is--was also recently parroted by one of our anonymous trolls here at What Fresh Hell.

The fact is, Obama uses the word terrorism a lot, as you can see if you'd just take the time to read some of the transcripts on the White House Website. In fact, his last radio address uses the word or some variant of it six times in four minutes and fifty seconds. The page on the website that addresses Homeland Security uses the word terrorism four times. A search for the word "terrorism" on the site turns up nine pages of hits.

As for the lie that 'he doesn't even call it  a war anymore" , here's a graf from the same address:

On that day I also made it very clear-our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred, and that we will do whatever it takes to defeat them and defend our country, even as we uphold the values that have always distinguished America among nations.

How much more often would the President have to use the word to satisfy people like Krauthammer? The answer is: none. They'll just keep lying. 

So arm yourselves with the facts for the next time some wingnut starts spreading the lie that "Obama doesn't even call it terrorism any more!"