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My Safety & Security Versus "Your" Privacy

There is one essential truth that must be understood as we enter the New Year in the wake of the failed Christmas airline bombing. It is time to banish any thinking that there is a right to privacy when you enter an airport or when you are flying on public airlines or frankly, any other form of public transportation. Short of a mechanical issue, my right to arrive at my destination without being blown up by a jihadist dedicated to exploding himself to smithereens in an act of his exercise of religious freedom is more important than someone else's privacy.

So, what do we "make" of airport security and technology? Magnetometers and baggage x-ray machines are old technology and should have been replaced years ago, if not after September 11th. Besides, there are numerous other scanning techniques that have been developed in the scurry for security since 2001, even if they haven't yet been deployed on a wide basis.

Frankly, it is time for all of the privacy concerns about backscatter imagery to be set aside. Is it expensive? Sure. Is it foolproof? No. Earlier this year French officials indicated that they were considering more intrusive detection and scanning methods to address potential "inside the body" suicide bombers. Even though "experts" were split on whether such terrorist methods were realistic, the fact is that one of the constants of this War on Terror is that the tactics used remain unpredictable.

Whether it is "too little too late" or political grandstanding, Gordon Brown has given the go-ahead to install full body scanners at Britain's airports. However, the last thing needed right now is to find a "quick fix" to what went wrong with our systems on Christmas Day.
Lee Hamilton, former vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, said the president must take the lead in creating a sense of urgency about the threat. "In looking for a better way to share information and developing better detection techniques, managing the international aspects of this problem, we've simply got to give it a high priority, an urgent priority, because we know they're coming after us," he told Fox News.

Despite Janet Napolitano's on and off "the system" worked proclamation, it clearly did not. But one of the things not noted elsewhere (at least not read by me) is that the chain of security leading to the United States starts at the point of origination. If security in Africa and Europe are not up to "U.S. standards" then the system cannot work, even if all of the information sharing being discussed (again) is finally accomplished.

"Intelligence itself and collection thereof is always going to be difficult and not always going to result in complete information and (Obama) understands that," a senior administration official said Thursday. "But, by the same token, when we do have information and when we have good information -- and we often, do given how good our intel professionals are -- the failure to share that information is not going to be tolerated."

It is pretty clear at this point that short of full cooperation internationally and within the U.S. IC when it comes to terrorist intelligence, the likelihood is that some jihadist focused on dying for the cause will somehow avert the attention of the authorities and slip through the security net and attempt to blow himself and a plane load of people to the stratosphere. Since it comes down to those basics, it is my safety, security and survival that is paramount, not your "privacy."

Because of a newly revised security policy that treats visitors to the U.S. from 14 specific countries differently than U.S. citizens civil rights groups are complaining about profiling. Those 14 countries:

Citizens of Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria, countries that are considered "state sponsors of terrorism," as well as those of "countries of interest" -- including Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen -- will face the special scrutiny, officials said. Passengers holding passports from those nations, or taking flights that originated or passed through any of them, will be required to undergo full-body pat downs and will face extra scrutiny of their carry-on bags before they can board planes to the United States.

Profiling? This actually sounds like a reasonable starting point.