Category Archives: Terrorism

There are many reasons to die. A typo shouldn’t be one of them.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

As you may have heard, one of the reasons we let a terrorist on board that Christmas day flight to Detroit was apparently because his name was misspelled on some list or screen. (See, for example, “State Department failed to confirm terror suspect’s visa,” CNN Politics, January 8, 2010.) The correct spelling, as best I can tell, is “Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab,” with or without the space between his last two names.

Joe Smith

Admittedly, particularly for westerners unfamiliar with Muslim names, it’s a far cry from “Joe Smith” and typos are human nature. Okay, but lives are at stake. In no small way, the fate of a great nation hangs on the quality of our security systems and the software on which those systems rely.

Mind you, I’m no techie, but I do use Google and, yes, I sometimes misspell something when I initiate a search. When I do, Google responds by asking, “Do you mean: …,” and suggests an alternative spelling based on information it has on file. Within reason, go to Google and try entering Mr. Abdul Mutallab’s name, making an innocent typo when you do, and see what happens.

Typo

Am I being unfair? After all, Mr. Abdul Mutallab is all over the Internet now, but was unknown on the Internet before Christmas. Sure, but my point is still valid. When lives are on the line, the least we can expect is for our security systems software to find similar names and offer them as options to the authorities who might then realize, in a world of long, complicated and unfamiliar names, that maybe, just maybe the guy waiting nervously in line to board the plane, the one with the unusually large bulge in his pants, is worth a second look.

Maybe it’s time we put Google in charge of airport security. There are many reasons to die. A typo shouldn’t be one of them.

If you have time, take a look at To paraphrase Walt Disney, “Yemeny Cricket!”, published Monday, January 4, 2010 on the WordFeeder.

-wf


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Maybe it’s time we put Google in charge of airport security.

Friday, January 8, 2010

As you may have heard, one of the reasons we let a terrorist on board that Christmas day flight to Detroit was apparently because his name was misspelled on some list or screen. (See, for example, “State Department failed to confirm terror suspect’s visa,” CNN Politics, January 8, 2010.) The correct spelling, as best I can tell, is “Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab,” with or without the space between his last two names.

Joe Smith

Admittedly, particularly for westerners unfamiliar with Muslim names, it’s a far cry from “Joe Smith” and typos are human nature. Okay, but lives are at stake. In no small way, the fate of a great nation hangs on the quality of our security systems and the software on which those systems rely.

Mind you, I’m no techie, but I do use Google and, yes, I sometimes misspell something when I initiate a search. When I do, Google responds by asking, “Do you mean: …,” and suggests an alternative spelling based on information it has on file. Within reason, go to Google and try entering Mr. Abdul Mutallab’s name, making an innocent typo when you do, and see what happens.

Typo

Am I being unfair? After all, Mr. Abdul Mutallab is all over the Internet now, but was unknown on the Internet before Christmas. Sure, but my point is still valid. When lives are on the line, the least we can expect is for our security systems software to find similar names and offer them as options to the authorities who might then realize, in a world of long, complicated and unfamiliar names, that maybe, just maybe the guy waiting nervously in line to board the plane, the one with the unusually large bulge in his pants, is worth a second look.

There are many reasons to die. A typo shouldn’t be one of them.

If you have time, take a look at To paraphrase Walt Disney, “Yemeny Cricket!”, published Monday, January 4, 2010 on the WordFeeder.

-wf


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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.
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Speechless: The Barack Obama Response to a Terrorist Attack

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Could be – although I certainly hope not – that we’re about to have one of those 3 o’clock in the morning moments Senator Clinton talks about.

Ayman Al-Zawahri, Al Qaeda’s second in command under Osama Bin Laden, has released a video which differs from those he and Mr. Bin Laden have produced previously.  According to one analyst I saw interviewed on MSNBC yesterday, the video seemed rushed, did not come through the usual channels and, most strikingly, used remarkably direct language in the way it seemed to literally give orders for attacks on the United States and Israel.  Who knows what all this means, but it got me thinking.  What if there is an attack before the convention, before the Democratic nominee is selected?  What difference will it make?

Senator Obama will find it difficult to resist the opportunity to remind voters that he opposed the use of military force in Iraq from the start, even when it made no sense in light of threats to our security which he acknowledged in the same October 2, 2002 speech.  The fact that the wisdom of his opposition to the use of military force in Iraq is convenient hindsight will be lost in the excitement of the moment.  (See “Reckless Endangerment” posted February 23.)  He will want to tell us that the attack might have never happened had we focused our attention on Afghanistan instead, but may not for fear voters will be annoyed by his taking advantage of the attack to further his campaign.

He’ll give one of his trademark, feel good “Obama Knows Best” speeches to divert our attention from the question at hand:  The attack has happened.  You’re President of the United States.  What specifically do you do?  “This is not a drill,” will be the message that threatens to take him off his game.

Personally, I don’t have the slightest idea.  Depending upon the circumstances of the attack, I can imagine all manner of reactions which might be appropriate.  I’m sure both campaigns have anticipated an attack, and have prepared their candidates with responses which will be perfectly scripted to seem instinctive and unscripted, the way you would hope a seasoned Commander-in-Chief would be ready in any eventuality.

Senator Obama believes in talking to everyone, including the leaders of countries which may be outright enemies of our state.  Admirable, but unrealistic.  Even if Al Qaeda would agree to so much as a phone call with an American President, we really don’t want to talk to them.  To meet with Al Qaeda, particularly in the aftermath of an attack, is to give them status, to recognize them in a way which elevates their movement from criminal to something higher, more civil.

He can talk to the leaders of the countries where Al Qaeda is based, but to what end?  To convince them to do our job for us?  To tell them what Secretary Rice and others have made clear to them already?  And how much time is all this talking going to take?

If not talk, then what?  John McCain will tell the voters he supports the use of our military, if necessary, to find and dispatch the perpetrators, and to punish Al Qaeda in general.  It’s the Israeli concept of hit me, I’ll hit you back harder, words to live by which have gone a long way to protect a people surrounded by its enemies.

Nobody doubts that Hillary Clinton and John McCain would engage the military, certainly for a police action of the sort we’re discussing.  Barack Obama will have to agree or risk not seeming Presidential – and do it without whining about how we got into this mess.  Even more stifling, all three candidates will need to be careful not to undercut the current administration for which this scenario will be far from an academic exercise.  With a new administration just months away, our allies and enemies alike will want to wait to do business with the next Commander-in-Chief, particularly if they sense he might be naïve, inexperienced, and disinclined to use force.

Strip away the power of his rhetoric, hardly an effective weapon against terrorists, replace the exuberant crowds with a nation of worried families and concerned businesses.  What does that leave for him to demonstrate the insight and leadership he’s so often promised?


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