TSA & Company Explain That Queasy Feeling

In Crime, Politics, World on March 24, 2010 at 3:24 pm

The occasion was yet another Congressional hearing on the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner — the House Judiciary Committee meeting on the topic of “Sharing and Analyzing Information to Prevent Terrorism.”

Testifying were:

Timothy Healy, the director of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center;

Patrick Kennedy, Undersecretary for Management at the State Department;

Patricia Cogswell, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary (kind of sounds like the title they give someone from the temp agency) in the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Policy;

And, the person with one of my favorite titles — Russell Travers, the Deputy Director for Information Sharing and Knowledge Development at the National Counterterrorism Center.

Why do I like his title? Because it implies there is actually someone in charge of learning (knowledge development, no?) and sharing that information when clearly, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

In the case of each person’s testimony they basically thank the committee for “inviting” them, describe all the great security measures that have been put in place since 9/11, tell the committee why nothing really worked — to some degree why it wasn’t their fault — and then tell the committee how committed their agency/department is to keeping America safe.

For instance, Travers told the committee that “the incident does not raise major information sharing issues” but the government “needs to look at overall standards — those required to get on watchlists in general, and the No Fly and Selectee List in particular” and “The US Government needs to prove its overall ability to piece together partial, fragmentary information from multiple collectors.”

He finished by saying:

“The men and women of the National Counterterrorism Center and the Intelligence Community are committed to fighting terrorism at home and abroad, and will seek every opportunity to better our analytical tradecraft, more aggressively pursue those that plan and perpetrate acts of terrorism, and effectively enhance the criteria used to keep known or suspected terrorists out of the United States.”

Of course.

Healy, of the FBI, told the committee that the people who work at Terrorist Screening Center are “committed to protecting the American public from terrorist threats while simultaneously protecting privacy and safeguarding civil liberties” as they manage the terrorist watch list but that they rely on their partners in law enforcement and intelligence to nominate people for the lists.

He finished by repeating what was his real theme:

“We have a standing commitment to improve our operational processes, to enhance our human capital and technological capabilities, and to continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats while protecting privacy and safeguarding their civil liberties.”

Then there’s the testimony of Cogswell who, as expected, begins by talking about how her Department and its partners are: determined to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat terrorist networks by employing multiple layers of defense that work in concert with one another to secure our country.”

She then lays out all the security measures put in place since September 11 — none of which really made a difference on Christmas — and then claimed how on Christmas “the attack on board the flight failed in no small part due to the brave actions of the crew and passengers aboard the plane.”

Actually, it was ENTIRELY because of the passengers and crew.

Anyway, I’m flying tomorrow and again on Tuesday and would feel a lot better about the whole thing if these guys could actually appear before Congress and say something positive that doesn’t stink of spin.


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