Fear and anger

December 28, 2009 12:34:23 PM PST
I'd be scared if I weren't so angry.

That observation today from one of our newsroom staffers I think pretty much sums up the general sentiment about the botched and way-too-close attempted terrorist attack on a Delta/Northwest flight on Christmas Day.

So many screw ups in security, it's hard to find where to begin. The cash paid for the ticket? The alleged bomber's name on a watch list? Smuggling explosives sewn into his underwear? Changing his itinerary? Pacing back and forth in the Amsterdam boarding lounge? Is it time for the military to take charge of airport security?

It's great that Pres. Obama has ordered a complete review of airport security in the wake of Mr. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's Al Qaeda backed plan to blow up the plane as it was preparing to land in Detroit. But there are many people who just aren't sure they want to fly anytime soon - the same kind of fear folks had after the Sept. 11 attacks.

That will subside, of course, just like it did back in 2001. But what's troubling is that we seem not to have learned from our prior mistakes. We also seem to be two steps behind these guys. Hijack airplanes? Beef up security after the fact. Plant a bomb in your shoe? Prohibit any liquid quantity greater than 3 ounces. Head to the bathroom before landing and get your explosive ready? Force everyone to stay seated an hour before landing.

We react, we aren't being pro-active.

Of course, in a democratic society, it's hard to be totally preventative. Jailing anyone who espouses Islamic fundamentalism wouldn't really fly, but why is that when Abdulmutallab's own father - a prominent banker in Nigeria - warns authorities about his son's whacko political thinking, no one listens?

It's déjà-vu to Major Hassan's extremist transformation over the past two years, complete with warnings from colleagues, that went unheeded, until he went on a rampage at Ft. Hood last month.

Hassan and Abdulmutallab apparently have something in common, besides their devotion to fundie thinking: A radical cleric by the name of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was in contact with both of them.

Is Yemen the new center for Al Qaeda training? There are many who think it is. Which of course raises the question of whether Afghanistan should be the focus of the U.S. military's might.

Will the Obama Administration re-think its strategy? Hard to imagine it will abandon the Afghan surge. But with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claiming responsibility for the attempted plane bombing, and saying it was in retaliation for the recent U.S. attacks an al-Qaeda camp (that killed 34 alleged terrorists), it wouldn't seem far fetched that Yemen would now become a target in the war on terror.

A White House official now rejecting the notion that Abdulmuttalab's attempted attack was in retaliation for the Dec. 17 airstrike in Yemen - that's because he was "deployed" before that attack.

Meanwhile the reaction from the TSA continues. More security, more passengers who don't fit the profile stopped and searched, and longer delays for a population that is already wary of flying. (I seem to be stopped and patted down every time I go through airport security with my kids, which prompts the loud-enough-for-TSA-to-hear comment from my teenage son: "Oh right, the perfect profile fit: Middle age Jewish guy with kids." My son has yet to be taken to the rubber room, thankfully.)

We'll have the latest on the investigation into the plane incident, and the increased security at area airports, tonight at 11.

And has the thought crossed anyone else's mind that the trials of the 9-11 conspirators suddenly take on greater security questions than before?

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers (in for Scott Clark) with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

And thanks to the hundreds of you who sent in emails to read on Christmas morning. I saw them all, and we got to read many of them on the air. It was, once again, another meaningful interactive Christmas morning newscast.

BILL RITTER


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