Nothing like fighting the prior war while the “enemy” is fighting a new war. Or, nothing like thinking with an old-school mindset when it comes to tracking and anticipating terror threats. Which is precisely what terrorism experts and former DHS officials are saying now.
The NY Times is reporting that, while the Department of Homeland Security has made strides since the US completely ignored every warning and sign about the attacks on 9/11, the nearly “obsessive focus” on how to make an airplane less likely to be used as a flying missile has hampered the US from effectively combating new threats.
The recent dealings with the airport security and the news of how the UK terror plot centered around the use of explosives which would not be traced or picked up during airport screening is just the latest example of how far the US still has to go. I wrote about how much of a laughingstock DHS really is the other day. And now we are hearing some experts speak out in a similar manner.
The experts, who include Randall J. Larsen, a retired colonel in the Air Force who is chairman of the military strategy department at the National War College in Washington and Robert M. Blitzer, who served 26 years in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, including as head of its counterterrorism unit, indicate that the same “failure of imagination” that led to anticipating and doing anything to prevent the 9/11 attacks.
While Larson is calling DHS “reactive vs. proactive”, Blitzer had the following to say:
“They don’t have enough continuity and knowledge to know what they’re up against. Stability is a big thing for identifying trends. It’s not easy to do. Sometimes all you have is just snippets of information.”
Additionally, Justin P. Oberman, a former senior policy official at the Transportation Security Administration, talked about not using the right technologies or using the resources in the right manner.
“Too much is weighted toward looking for knives and guns on people coming through the checkpoint and screening every checked bag,”
Mr. Oberman, the former security agency official, said that part of the problem was the mandates imposed on the agency by Congress — like hiring government employees to do checkpoint screening and inspecting every checked bag instead of focusing the inspections on those considered the highest risk. This results in inspection programs that are so costly there is little money available to research into new threats.
Other experts discuss how there isn’t a risk management process to deal with what would and wouldn’t work, as well as what is likely to be used in a future attack. According to Penrose C. Albright, a former assistant secretary for science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security:
“In the absence of coherent analysis, there’s no way to prevent the system from getting whipsawed. So it’s not surprising that we end up spending a lot of money fighting the last war and not addressing more modern threats.”
Not that we haven’t been saying this for months, if not years already. But to have former DHS officials (as well as some current DHS officials admitting that they can do more), as well as terrorism experts come out and sound this alarm about how we are most certainly not being kept safer, it is even more imperative that we hold those who are responsible for this gigantic disaster-waiting-to-happen accountable. Additionally, we need to ensure that the crony government officials who have no expertise are replaced with those who spend their lives and dedicate their careers to tracing terrorist activities, preferences, weapons of choice, as well as people who actually care about this country.