Twin national-security fail for Obama this week

Two big stories this week involved terrorism and national security: the backlash against new, invasive security procedures at U.S. airports, and the acquittal on all but one charge of a defendant in the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

I don’t think you can fully understand one without the other.

On the one hand, you have the government treating every single person who comes through the airport as a potential terrorist — when, as Charles Krauthammer writes, “the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. [Yet] instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches.” At Reason.com, Robert Poole offers a very reasonable alternative screening strategy that would address most of the concerns raised by the new techniques while falling just short of the dreaded “profiling.”

On the other hand, you have the government treating foreign war combatants, sworn enemies of the United States, as if they are U.S. citizens, with all the rights and privileges we enjoy. That is how a man like Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani can be tried in a civilian court rather than a military tribunal, which has rules of evidence that take into account the vastly different nature of apprehending a suspect and collecting evidence on a battlefield rather than in a civilized society, where law-breaking and lethally dangerous behavior are the exception rather than the norm.

The overall message from the Obama administration to the American public is that it cares more about upholding a certain facade of fairness than taking its responsibilities seriously.

It’s a facade because, in the case of the civilian trials for terror suspects, the Obama administration has never had any intention of letting an acquitted defendant go free. Had Ghailani been cleared of that last charge against him, as he was of more than 280 others, we would have been treated to the spectacle of seeing the feds continue to jail him anyway under a “presidential post-acquittal detention power.” As I’ve argued before, this plan actually mocks the rule of law far more than trying a terror suspect in a civilian court could ever enhance it.

Above all, these approaches to national security only further underscore the idea that Barack Obama, as Peggy Noonan has written, is “still seeing a reality no one else is seeing.” And in this case, the consequences are not merely political.

51 comments Add your comment

Hillbilly Deluxe

November 19th, 2010
11:38 am

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani should have been tried in a military court, in my opinion. Trying him in civilian court is trying to fit a round peg in a square hole.

carlosgvv

November 19th, 2010
11:39 am

It is just a matter of time before we have another 9/11 type terrorist attack. New security mesures after that will make today’s mesures look like the good old days.

barking frog

November 19th, 2010
12:24 pm

Dogs are cheap, accurate and less invasive than
current techniques.

Happy Union Goon TSA Groper

November 19th, 2010
12:48 pm

And then we have that idiot Biden saying things like this on the Afghanistan withdrawal plan: “Daddy is going to start to take the trainings wheels off.” Can you imagine if Dickie Cheney had said this how the liberal Demwits would have reacted? That clown was born with a full sock and shoe mouth.

Regarding Ahmed Allahakbar or whatever the hell his name is and the bed wettting liberal fairytale land of US civilian court trials, only a charge of conspiracy to destroy government buildings was he charged with – our of nearly THREE HUNDRED. This does, of course, include such brilliant things as the district court judge barring a major witness from testifying, even though he was prepared to tell the jury that he sold Ahmed the explosives used to destroy the U.S. embassy in Tanzania in 1998.

Great job liberals. We keep you people in power much longer and we’ll need to buy our own prayer rugs – like the UK and Europe will have to do in a decade or two.

A Hearty Cheese Sauce

November 19th, 2010
1:11 pm

For all of ObaManures Hah-vuud education he sure is one stupid man.

Jefferson

November 19th, 2010
1:27 pm

We will never have plane flying into buildings unless the pilots are on the take. Now bomb on planes, thats different. Quit buying tickets and the airlines will change.

Joe the Plutocrat (the artist formerly known as paleo-neo-Carlinist)

November 19th, 2010
1:32 pm

KW, only problem? the whole “remove your shoes” and TSA circus doesn’t have Obama’s name as “parent” on its birth certificate (ironic pun intended). the very astute observation (terrorists treated like citizens and citizens treated like terrorists) is worthy of discussion, but it seems to me the discussion would lead most critical thinkers to conclude there is very little difference between President Bush and President Obama when it comes to “national security” as a manifestation of policy, vis a vis a role/function of government

Kyle Wingfield

November 19th, 2010
1:42 pm

Plutocrat: You’re right about the ancestry of the airport-security madness. The civilian trials thing, though, is pure Obama/Holder.

But back to airport security. Obama is maybe the one president who could get away with implementing a background-centric approach to security (call it “profiling” if you like, but as I noted in the OP, a plan like Poole’s stops short of that imo). Why? The same reason only Nixon could go to China. And there probably are a lot of Americans who don’t give Obama much credit now, but would do just that if he were to spend some of the political capital he’s always trying to earn overseas.

Of course, as soon as he did, he would find out — if he didn’t know already — that the only reason the rest of the world says it likes him better than his predecessor(s) is his deference to their sensibilities. They’re not interested in making that a two-way street.

Joe the Plutocrat (the artist formerly known as paleo-neo-Carlinist)

November 19th, 2010
2:26 pm

KW, as I said, such ideas require us to believe the POTUS forms a bureacracy like DHS, or tries terrorists as civilians because he believes in the misson of “national security”. the DHS does not “secure” the “homeland” any more than the various agencies cobbled together before 9/11 could (did) “secure” the USA. the same with trying terrorists as civilians. I believe that terrorists caught on US soil (or US airliners, as it were) are criminals, and as such, should be arrested, tried, convicted, and executed via U.S. criminal law and U.S. courts of law. a foreign national, apprehended on a battlefield (very broad definition), or on foreign soil, is another kettle of fish. personally, I favor torture (punitive, not for intelligence gathering), followed by summary execution. who are we (Obama/Holder) trying to impress with these trials? it’s like some silly kabuki theatre.

scrappy

November 19th, 2010
2:57 pm

Kyle – I do wish that you (and more conservatives like you) would stand up and shout a little louder about how absolutley wrong and ineffective the current airport screenings standards really are. They are absud and need a complete overhaul, and I agree that Obama is one that could actually get away with – like it or not – because of the color of his skin.

The right ‘proud american’ nuts that are standing up for government sponsered porn/sexual assault, really need to re-examine thier critical thinking skills, and since they won’t listen to a liberal, it needs to come from one of their own – just like you.

The left is not innocent either – if they don’t want to ‘profile’, then they need to come up with a new word then, and do it, just don’t call it ‘profiling’.

DebbieDoRight

November 19th, 2010
3:06 pm

What a bunch of asinine crap!!! Kyle, name one modern civilized country that tries terrorists in military tribunals. You can’t because there are none. The guy who blew up the 747 over Lachland….tried in a civilian court. The men who raided the Olympics in the 70’s — CIVILIAN courts!! Unless you’re from Iraq during the Saddam era, (even Iran tries people in their civilian courts), then that’s how it’s done. All this nonsense you’re spewing is just that. NON SENSE. Why not get out more and see how the real world interacts. You might learn something, but if not, It’ll probably help your blogging numbers if nothing else…….

DebbieDoRight

November 19th, 2010
3:07 pm

PS: Remember, nobody is MAKING you fly. You don’t like the new procedures implemented, then take the train.

DebbieDoRight

November 19th, 2010
3:09 pm

They are absud and need a complete overhaul, and I agree that Obama is one that could actually get away with – like it or not – because of the color of his skin, because he’d at least listen to all sides and not make snap judgements based on idiots like me who appear on this blog!!

There! Fixed it for you.

Kyle Wingfield

November 19th, 2010
3:15 pm

Debbie: Name one other country that has been arresting enemy combatants on foreign battlefields. You’re not comparing apples to apples.

As for your 3:07: Right, because 17-21 hours to go from Atlanta to Chicago on Amtrak is a reasonable alternative to flying…

Joe the Plutocrat (the artist formerly known as paleo-neo-Carlinist)

November 19th, 2010
3:21 pm

KW, A few years ago I flew solo to EWR (Newark) for a family thing. My brother (also lives in ATL) drove his family. The we left roughly the same time (around 7:00 AM). After flight delays, late luggaged, etc., I crossed my home threshold just before 7:00 PM. His return trip lasted a mere two hours more (just before 9:00 PM). Do you have Amtrak’s number?

Kyle Wingfield

November 19th, 2010
3:39 pm

Pluto, let’s not pretend like that’s an average experience.

Vick Vaporized

November 19th, 2010
4:06 pm

Kyle is…..wrong. We have domestic terrorists, of course. Suppose I suggest that Kyle is a terrorist. Suppose I plant evidence. Without our constitutional safeguards, I could send Kyle to prison for life, simply by crying “witch”.

Kyle argues like a post pubescent pre-adolescent tween. it’s embarrassing for both the AJC and the right.

Jefferson

November 19th, 2010
4:31 pm

2 words – Private Jet

Penny Lane

November 19th, 2010
4:35 pm

So for the people saying that if I don’t want to be sexually assaulted by a TSA officer (I have skin cancer and therefore cannot go through the machines), it’s not a problem because I don’t have to fly.

I have to travel to Hawaii next week for my job. Um, what am I supposed to do? Drive??

Or would you prefer I quit my job and start drawing unemployment….

Kyle Wingfield

November 19th, 2010
4:48 pm

What’s embarrassing, Vaporized, is how badly you misread my post — in which I wrote about “foreign war combatants” in contrast to U.S. citizens, and about “the vastly different nature of apprehending a suspect and collecting evidence on a battlefield rather than in a civilized society.”

Kyle Wingfield

November 19th, 2010
4:50 pm

But then, Vaporized, you seem to have an awful lot of trouble with the whole “reading what’s actually written” thing, no matter which post you’re belching in response to, and no matter which of your many names you use.

DebbieDoRight

November 19th, 2010
5:25 pm

I have to travel to Hawaii next week for my job. Um, what am I supposed to do? Drive??
Or would you prefer I quit my job and start drawing unemployment….

You can always do it how it was done before plane……….it’s called a boat. Enjoy!! :)

DebbieDoRight

November 19th, 2010
5:28 pm

oops before planes. Kick it old school!

saywhat?

November 19th, 2010
5:30 pm

Kyle, events over the past two years have shown Krauthammer to be demonstrably wrong in his assertions.

Dusty

November 19th, 2010
5:43 pm

Kyle,

I agree with you on the court system for terrorist combatants. The military was made to handle combatants at all stages. I prefer their justice to that of a man (Holder) appointed by a friend and neither has ever been in combat.

As to airport security measures, I think it is hard not to go ovefboard in prevention of terrorist attacks. Terrorists do seem to aim for air travel and to go for extra precautions at airports seems justifiable.

As to better systems of value in catchng suspects, I am not sure there is a sureproof one of another kind.that has been perfected. But it is hard for me to condemn the government for taking the best steps is has to prevent bombs and air disasters of any kind. It does raise the question: Is overzealous ispection at airports of value or have we forgotten the latest national captures of terrorists have been on planes headed for the USA? Airplanes still seem to the choice vehicle for terrorist activity aimed at the USA..

John

November 19th, 2010
5:51 pm

“Plutocrat: You’re right about the ancestry of the airport-security madness. The civilian trials thing, though, is pure Obama/Holder.”

KW…you can’t rewrite history. The civilian trial thing is not pure Obama/Holder. Do some research…President Bush tried terrorist in civilian courts. Shoe bomber Richard Reid; al-Qaeda agent Jose Padilla; “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh; the Lackawanna Six; and Zacarias Moussaoui, who was prosecuted for the same conspiracy for which Mohammed is likely to be charged. Many of these terrorists are locked in a supermax prison in Colorado, never to be seen again. All put away via civilian courts during the Bush administration.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

November 19th, 2010
5:56 pm

It kinda makes you wonder what obozo’s intentions are, don’t it?

scrappy

November 19th, 2010
6:15 pm

Debbie-
“They are absud and need a complete overhaul, and I agree that Obama is one that could actually get away with – like it or not – because of the color of his skin, because he’d at least listen to all sides and not make snap judgements based on idiots like me who appear on this blog!!

There! Fixed it for you.”

Nothing fixed there unless the idiot you are referring to, is you.

The point of Obama being able to make GOOD decisions with regard to TSA standards pretty much rules out the ‘listen to all sides’ nonsense.

And saying there are alternatives to flying is more nonsense. Sorry there just isn’t an alternative – although I keep waiting for the ‘beam me up’ device from Star Trek.
The only difference is the airline industry with government regulations has become a like monopoly with no regard for their customers. Until the customers push back and say NO – come up with something better – they are not going to change anything.

scrappy

November 19th, 2010
6:21 pm

“Terrorists do seem to aim for air travel and to go for extra precautions at airports seems justifiable.”

NO – they are not justifible! The only thing these increased precautions do is give a baseless sense of security, or a perception of security.
I will go thru security if thier procedures were actually capable of catching the terrorists.
A whole other story is all of the people that work behind security and don’t have to go thru it. What is to keep a terrorist from getting to the planes if they take a job there? Nothing.

JDW

November 21st, 2010
1:39 pm

Kyle, on the subject of trials, if were there to be a large number of detainees from a defined battlefield I would be more inclined to agree that military tribunals were the way to go…think Nuremburg. In reality what we have is a relatively small number of miscreants that have committed defined crimes and the civil court system will do a fine job of handling those cases.

The issue in the trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani stemmed from the Bush Administration’s use of illegal and unconstitutional methods of interrogation i.e. torture which led to vital evidence being disallowed.

somewhereinga

November 21st, 2010
2:11 pm

There have been dozens of “terrorists” convicted in civilian courts. Why is it an issue now that Obama is in office? It wasn’t an issue when Bush was in office and he had them prosecuted in the Federal Cout system. Where was the uproar? Could it be the reason we weren’t able to get convictions on the many charges against the man you’re talking about was that there wasn’t the proper evidence? Or are we goiing to start convixtiing people now because we “think” they’re guilty.

On the other subject…just wait until a plane goes down because of a bomb. Then all the people on here whining about having to be frisked and having their “junk” touched will be screaming that the TSA didn’t do “enough”. The next day Kyle will have a column blaming Obama for not doing enough to protect the traveling public, basically doing a 180 from this column. Personally I don’t have any problem getting xrayed or whatever AND getting frisked as long as I know everyone else on the plane is getting it too. Do you really think a terrorist is going to NOT put a bomb in a baby’s bottle?

And NO….none of my “rights” are being taken away!

Bullwinkle

November 21st, 2010
2:20 pm

To somewhereinga. I agree with you 100%. Let a bomb go off or make it aboard a domestic flight and the right and KW will be clamoring for President Obama’s head. Notice KW, I said President Obama (his official title)not just “Obama” like you and your kind always uses.

somewhereinga

November 21st, 2010
2:29 pm

Somebody is posting under Dusty’s moniker. Surely she wouldn’t have almost agreed with the current government on something! As for agreeing with Kyle…well, duh!

RAY

November 21st, 2010
2:49 pm

Hey i’ve notice that you you refer to George Bush as president, but refuse to address “OUR” current president by that title, whats up with that…..

Rafe Hollister

November 21st, 2010
3:25 pm

This whole security screening process is caused by warped liberal logic. It is beyond convuluted. We know who the terrorists are, they all look alike, but we can’t look for them. If a foreign born 25 year old wearing bulky Muslim garb is the 8th in line, we have to skip him and pick the tenth in line, a Catholic nun. Process over substance.

This makes us less safe, but more PC, which makes a tingle run up the leg of the liberal masses. They love to blur the issue by references to Tim McVey and Eric Rudulph, neither of which tried to blow up an airplane.

If we have another airplane tragedy, we need to point the finger of blame at the folks, who make us less safe than we could be, Big Sis, Obama (President Barack Hussein Obama, that is for RAY) and the legion of liberal ninnies that had rather be less judgmental and tolerant than be safe.

Rafe Hollister

November 21st, 2010
3:33 pm

RAY and Bullwinkle

If we are going formal here, when referring to him use his full legal name President Barack Hussein Obama, and I will quit calling President George W. Bush, Dubyah. All of you that constantly post quotes from Jefferson or Madison, please use there full names preceded by President.

Matt D.

November 21st, 2010
4:32 pm

1. You don’t arrest enemy combatants: you either kill or capture them.
2. If Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani were tried by military tribunal (which he shoyld be), it would not be as easy for him to be lightly sentenced if convicted at all. That does seem to be the strategy, does it not?
3. If the Obama administration were serious about terrorism, profiling would be utilized. We wouldn’t be wasting time on 3 year-olds and grandmothers. The new tractics at airports might have been accepted – if anyone believed that there was an honest effot to thwart terrorism by the muslim Hussein Obama and his staff.

Darwin

November 21st, 2010
5:34 pm

In other words, it has nothing to do with the principles of the U.S. it’s all B.S.

killerj

November 21st, 2010
5:37 pm

FBI needs to investigate Harvard,s elite core.

Real Athens

November 21st, 2010
5:58 pm

Kyle,

As far as the enemy combatants go you offer a valid complaint yet no solution other than a military tribunal. Since you mention the “facade” of the trial and the “spectacle” of post-acquittal detention power my question is: If a combatant, captured on a battlefield is tried and found not guilty at a tribunal, what is the next step?

Regarding biometric airport screening at airports, you create a second-class citizen/traveler (class warfare) of those who cannot afford such a card. Physiological Biometric characteristics include, but are not limited to fingerprint, face recognition, DNA, palm print, hand geometric and iris recognition –which has largely replaced retina ID. Do you want this information filed by the U.S. government in order to allow you to travel freely and swiftly between cities of the U.S.?

Many countries, including the United States, already trade biometric data. The United States has bi-lateral agreements to share biometric data with about 25 countries. Every time a foreign leader has visited Washington during the last few years, the State Department has made sure they sign such an agreement. Governments are unlikely to disclose full capabilities of biometric deployments. As a result, many in the civilian community are worried about how biometric data is used. Unfortunately, full disclosure may not be forthcoming to the civilian community.

I believe that this type of ID is in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I can be granted swift/unobstructed passage inside the sovereign borders of the United States if I pay a fee to a PRIVATE company (with no governmental regulation or oversight) and give up a fingerprint or DNA? Even though I have no history of ever having been engaged in criminal activity?

This is not the United Sates I wish to live in. Do you?

Having just returned from Europe and traveled through the airports of Brussels and Frankfurt I propose a different approach. How about using specially-trained para-military, military and special operative personnel to monitor the day to day functions of airports. Have you ever witnessed the security employed around the Eiffel Tower? Compare that to the average employee of the TSA.

Quit chasing a ghost in Afghanistan and spending untold millions of dollars a week. A military presence at airports is security that will work, will protect personal freedoms and most people will not complain about.

John Franklin (JF) McNamara

November 21st, 2010
6:01 pm

LOL…A no win like I said the other day. I just wish that right wingers would be consistent. If you want extreme security, then be supportive of that. If you want no trials, then be supportive of the psueodo trial.

Don’t just be against whatever Obama does which is the current methodology. That’s maddening because he can never be right that way. How can you ever agree on everything when the right wing methodology is just be against Obama.

Dave

November 21st, 2010
6:44 pm

To your headline writer: Fail is a verb.

Romeo

November 21st, 2010
8:26 pm

Screw political correctness, if profiling is what it takes to keep terrorists off of airplanes then so be it. Later on the government can declare that the profilees were “victims”, similar to the Japanese interned during WWII, and give them some restitution.

native

November 21st, 2010
9:28 pm

As an occasional traveler who avoids air travel whenever possible, I sympathasize with frequent fliers who are incovenienced by airport security measures.

Alternatives may be even more onerous. Surrender DNA? Implant a chip? Either (especially the latter) makes you a valuable kidnap target. People complain of the violation of our liberties to combat terrorism. I say kiss the ground each time you land. Sooner or later a plane will go down.

So, as to profiling. That may be useful in the sense of detecting terrorists, but the minute it exempts any class terrorists will soon recruit or impersonate that demographic. I can look like a nun, a priest, am a businnessman.

This is a serious problem with no good solution. No high school hero, MBA, or other egotist can clam exemption from requirements that are embarrassing and insulting to what used to be our personal dignity.

You want to rain on Manhattan instead?

Bend Over

November 21st, 2010
9:49 pm

I am just waiting for the airplane bomber that puts the explosives into a condom and then places them where the sun does not shine. Goes to the bathroom on the plane and things go down hill from there. Time to get the procotologist some new work. But seriously – this panic and incrediable over reactions are exactly what the terriorist are wanting. A scared public that will give into their fears and let the govt. run wild. I am still patiently waiting for the head of the TA to be asked in a public forum one simple question. “Would the new aggressive tactics have found any of the things he highlighted?” The answer is no and a false sense of security is no sense of security.

native

November 21st, 2010
10:12 pm

Seems that we fear the same calamity. Do you have a solution?

Obama's legacy

November 21st, 2010
10:19 pm

Obama and his administration are going to go down in history not only as incompetent, but as utterly naive. Just when we thought that Jimmy Carter set the standard as a naive idiot, Obama and his pie in the sky view of the world arrived to take the standard to a new low. Sadly, it’s inevitable that Americans are going to die because of his naivete. When is this administration going to wake up and acknowlege that we are at war? Time to take the gloves off….

native

November 21st, 2010
10:33 pm

Gloves off with whom? To which war are you referring?

Jeb

November 21st, 2010
10:34 pm

The security procedures at US airports are nonsensical. I traveled this week through airports in Kabul, Dubai, and Atlanta. Atlanta was by far the worst experience- it took 2 hours after our plane landed to go through customs/security, where this took less than 30 minutes in Kabul in Dubai. I stood in a line from baggage claim that wrapped around on itself four times in Atlanta while we all waited to go through security for a second time. The line bottlenecked because there were only two checkpoints to go through. Meanwhile, I counted nine TSA employees who were sitting around literally doing nothing while several hundred people stood in line. A couple in front of me most likely missed their connecting flight even though they had two hours between landing and taking off again simply due to the delay.
Dubai and even Kabul, which has a much higher terrorism risk than Atlanta, were a much better experience by comparison. They both searched me and x-rayed my bags, but in much less time and with much friendlier and more reasonable employees, who have no problem with “profiling” people who might be a higher security risk.
As for the morons like Debbie that are claiming that we should simply find another alternative to flying: wake up. This is the reality of the modern world- flying is the only realistic means of transportation for much of business and leisure travel. Good luck finding an employer willing to let you do company business by the least efficient means. If you really believe that, may I suggest you just stop using the internet and hand-write all your correspondence from now on with a quill pen?

native

November 21st, 2010
10:59 pm

Jeb

There is a reason for that. Kabul and Dubai are less sensitive to casualities.