September 14, 2006

This article from last week’s Washington Times should give everyone pause for concern. It talks about the recent rash of incidents involving disruptive or suspcious-acting airline pasengers over the past several weeks. Some key sections:

At least 23 incidents worldwide since the Aug. 10 arrests of two dozen suspects have led to 11 emergency landings or flight diversions, four of them escorted by military jets, and 16 arrests.

The majority of disruptions occurred on domestic and inbound international flights. The number of publicly reported security incidents peaked on Aug. 25, with eight incidents on that day, Mr. Hagmann said.

One passenger was removed from an international flight after it was diverted to Bangor, Maine, when his name reportedly was discovered on a terrorist or no-fly watch list. A Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to India returned midway, escorted by a military jet, and 12 Muslim men were arrested but released. The men boarded moments before takeoff and immediately began passing around cellular phones. The disruption frightened passengers, and the men were subdued by U.S. air marshals.

And there’s this:

Federal air marshals, who reveal their presence only when an aircraft is in danger, have done so twice in as many weeks — against only once previously in the almost five years since the September 11 attacks. A Pakistani woman was detained by screeners Aug. 17 at a West Virginia airport after baby formula tested positive for explosives. The airport was closed for several hours while the FBI searched her home, where explosives residue was detected, Mr. Hagmann said.

Homeland Security officials will say only that the matter remains under investigation.

Just the other day, a man traveling to Yemen was arrested after attempting to board a plane with a knife hidden in a book, and another man had to be subdued by passengers and air marshals after trying to open a plane door during flight.

What the hell is going on here?

All of which, of course has led to a state of heightened awareness by the TSA. And its not only airports paying closer attention to security, but the trains as well, as Michelle reports:

I’ve taken several trips on Amtrak over the past few weeks, and have noticed a lot of extra security lately. Increased police presence inside the station. Increased police presence at the entrance before you get on the tracks. Foot patrols on the trains. Warnings that luggage is not allowed on empty seats next to passengers. Repeated announcements to notify authorities of any suspicious activity. I thought it was a pre-9/11 precaution last week. But the extra security is still out today.

There’s no question in my mind that there are people out there testing our air and rail security systems for vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Are they terrorists-in-waiting or those in sympathy with them? Or, are these people who are simply mentally troubled in some way and seeking attention? Perhaps both. Either way, I find these incidents intriguing and not just a little disconcerting, and hope the Department of Homeland Security is paying close attention.

Sooner or later, our airport and rail security apparatus is going to have to follow Israel’s lead and become a lot more sophisticated in the way traveling passengers are screened. And the time to start doing so is, like, yesterday. After all, as President Bush has often said, when it comes to protecting our nation we have to be right all the time; the terrorists only have to be right once. And he’s right. The only question is whether or nation has the stomach and fortitude to worry less about lawsuits and offending people and more about ensuring the safety of our nation and its people.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:01 | Comment (1)
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