To paraphrase Walt Disney, “Yemeny Cricket!”

Monday, January 4, 2009

My Pick for Ambassador to Yemen

So here’s this country, Yemen, where wannabe terrorists go to be trained in ways they can kill us. How nice. Remind me not to go there on vacation.

One of their graduates, from the Yemen Institute for Terrorist Studies – albeit not, apparently, one of their best students – turns out to be the textbook case for who not to let on a plane bound for the United States. Heck, he should have been denied a visa if, for no other reason, than not even Americans want to go to Detroit. How suspect is that?! And yet, he gets a ticket, and tries to blow up the plane. Thank goodness he wasn’t very good at his job.

It’s a failed attack on the United States which does us the huge favor of pointing out that our sense of security against just such an attack has been largely illusory. That’s the good news. The bad news, and no small victory for these criminals, is that it will succeed in causing us to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on high tech scanners and their use, not to mention the countless hours of otherwise productive time most harmless passengers will be wasting going through these machines.

I’m not suggesting that we don’t want to take precautionary, pre-emptive measures to protect our people – including my children and me who are frequent fliers. Far from it. What I’m trying to point out is how much control we’ve conceded to this relatively handful of terrorists. I’ve got a feeling it’s only the beginning, and I’m already tired of it.

What to do? What to do?

Despite what the Bush and now Obama administrations have told us, I don’t believe we can occupy every country where terrorists reside. I don’t think we can afford it, and I don’t think it works. It may even be counterproductive by justifying the arguments our enemies make for attacking us. And I don’t think body scanners are the answer. I prefer the Israeli approach which relies upon highly trained security personnel to interview and profile every passenger. It certainly has worked for them.

I’m no security professional, but I do have a suggestion. (My mother taught me never to be critical without offering an alternative, potentially superior idea. She would be proud.) Let’s require that every American who wants to fly anywhere be pre-screened for any security risk, as if we were qualifying for a security clearance. Issue an ID, perhaps as part of our passports, and require fingerprint scanning for airport gate access. Those of us with clearance will breeze through airport security, our bags included, just by presenting our fingertips. Those of us without clearance just don’t get to fly. Special arrangements can be made for emergency travel and very young children who would, presumably, go through with their parents authority.

We already have to present our drivers licenses for domestic flights and passports for international travel. Clearance application processing could be paid for by the passengers, and the savings, in terms of airport equipment, personnel and passenger time, would be enormous. Most importantly, we’ll be focusing our attention on making sure our requisite security clearance doesn’t give terrorists the right to fly – instead sifting through hundreds of thousands of us looking for the one flier who might have an inexplicably large whatever in his pants.

-wf


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