In yesterday’s State of the Union interview on CNN, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano rejected the idea of halting or seriously curtailing the enhanced patdowns launched a few weeks ago. Despite political pressures brought on by irate travelers during the holiday season, Napolitano said the administration would hold its ground and continue to roll out more scanner devices as well as expand the patdown regimen:
When asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” about the prospect of altering the pat-down technique, Napolitano said: “Not for the foreseeable future.”
“We’re always looking to improve systems and so forth. But the new technology, the pat downs, is just objectively safer for our traveling public,” Napolitano said in an interview aired Sunday. She noted that the pat-down procedures are coupled with greater use of full-body scanners and broader sharing of information about passengers prior to travel.
“There’s a whole kind of intel-based system that’s going on and then we get to the actual gate,” Napolitano said, claiming widespread improvement of air security one year after the attempt to blow up a Northwest plane flying from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas in 2009.
“Everything is objectively better than it was one year ago, particularly in the aviation environment,” she declared.
Objectively better? How so? Other than the Christmas Day bomber, nothing much has changed except the patdowns and scanners — which arrived months after the attempt to blow up the Northwest flight. Prior to that failure of security, it had been seven years since a terrorist had an opportunity to attack a commercial jet in-flight, using the same explosive technology (PETN ignited by flame). If anything, the attack demonstrated that the supposedly streamlined intelligence community continues to have much the same problems as they did before the Congressionally-mandated reorganization begun in 2004 as a result of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations.
Objectively speaking, we certainly haven’t improved. Subjectively speaking, we’ve managed to make air travel less attractive and given more power to petty bureaucrats at the security stations.
Speaking of the results of streamlining via the DNI structure, Napolitano defended James Clapper after his team failed to inform him of the arrests in the UK that busted an allegedly major terrorist ring, hours before he appeared on television.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you about DNI, James Clapper. A lot has been made about the fact that he did not know, several hours after the fact, of
the 12 arrests in Britain of suspected terrorists. How did he not know? How did that happen?
NAPOLITANO: Well, I think he’s been pretty up front about it. He had been working on the Hill on issues involving START and North Korea and
went into the interview before his briefer had a chance to brief him.
CROWLEY: — you just might be a little disconcerted and say well, I thought now we were all talking together and all of a sudden the —
the DNI does not know of a major terrorist bust in — in Britain.
NAPOLITANO: Well, let’s — let’s be fair. It — I knew. John Brennan knew. We also knew there was no connect that had been perceived to anything going on in the homeland and that we were in perfect connectivity with our — our colleagues in Britain. So one of the things I think that should be very clear to the American people is that those of us in homeland security who needed to know, we knew.
Well, Homeland Security isn’t the org that needed to know. The DNI and the National Intelligence Coordination Center (NICC) that the DNI runs is supposed to be the central clearinghouse for all intel, including that which comes from Europe. The DNI should have that information before Napolitano and Brennan, in order to make sure that Homeland Security, the military, the CIA, and the NSA can work together to connect any dots that need connecting. That’s the entire reason we have a DNI.
So, to be fair, something’s not working, and that has been obvious since the Christmas Day bombing attack attempt, if not since the Fort Hood shooting revealed Nidal Hasan’s connection to Anwar al-Awlaki. Objectively speaking, we aren’t getting better.