Monday, January 11, 2010

Obama orders $1B spent on airport body scanners

They are jamming this down our throats, creating the illusion of inevitability so that you'll grudgingly submit to this dangerous, blatant violation and humiliation that won't do a thing to stop a "terrorist" trying to smuggle a bomb on board a plane. I swear to you right now that neither me nor my children will ever step foot in one of these, and I implore you to stand your ground and do the same. The airlines are already coming out against these, because people hate them and it will affect their bottom line. If their profits plummet because of these things, eventually they will have to back down.

    Toledo Blade -

    President Obama yesterday ordered intelligence agencies to streamline how terrorism threats are pursued and analyzed, saying the government has to respond aggressively to the failures that allowed a Nigerian man to ignite an explosive on a jetliner on Christmas Day.

    Mr. Obama directed the Homeland Security Department to acquire $1 billion in advanced-technology equipment, including body scanners, for screening passengers at airports.

    He said intelligence reports involving threats would be distributed more widely among agencies. He instructed the State Department to review its visa policy to make it more difficult for people with connections to terrorism to receive visas, while making it simpler to revoke U.S. visas when questions arise.

    "We are at war," Mr. Obama said, releasing an unclassified version of a report on the attempted attack. He pledged not to "succumb to a siege mentality" sacrificing America's civil liberties for security, but he called for expanding the criteria for adding people to terrorism watch lists.

    Declaring the "buck stops with me," the President avoided blaming any particular agency or official for breakdowns that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board the Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit armed with explosives despite a series of warning signs along the way.

    "Ultimately, the buck stops with me," Mr. Obama said. "As President, I have a solemn responsibility to protect our nation and our people. When the system fails, it's my responsibility."

    Nevertheless, the remedies he ordered in a memo to Cabinet officials and security chiefs mostly were modest steps, and intelligence officials defended the existing system as largely functional and superior to the apparatus in place before the Sept. 11 attacks.

    Mr. Obama called on U.S. intelligence and security communities to strengthen terrorist watch lists, especially the nation's no-fly list, by expanding criteria for people to be included. The President also demanded reviews that could lead to additional travelers being subjected to time-consuming secondary security checks at airports, as well as visa denials and revocations at consulates.

    After the release of the report, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano unveiled changes her agency is implementing, including plans that were in motion before Christmas to deploy 300 advanced imaging machines to airports around the country.

    Mr. Obama said the United States would urge governments around the world to deploy the controversial whole body-imaging scanners at airports to detect explosives and other objects hidden beneath people's clothing.

    The Christmas Day incident underscores that "the screening procedures at foreign airports are critical to our safety here in the United States," Ms. Napolitano said. "After all, there were passengers from 17 countries aboard Flight 253. This is an international issue, not just one about the United States." Nineteen airports use the scanners. But the move to expand their use ran into strong opposition on privacy grounds from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress last year. Civil libertarians described the scanners as a "virtual strip search."

    In June, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a freshman Republican from Utah, won approval of a bill to bar the use of these body imagers as the primary scanners at airports. "Nobody needs to see my wife and kids naked to secure an airplane," Mr. Chaffetz said.

    His proposal won 310-118. The Senate has not taken up the idea.

    The report concluded that the government had been caught off guard by the strength of an al-Qaeda cell in Yemen, where officials say the jetliner plot originated.

    Administration officials said human error led to the failure to put Abdulmutallab on the no-fly list despite information that showed him to be a threat with a visa to visit the United States.

    The internal report blamed a host of errors for the intelligence lapse, including a misspelling of Abdulmutallab's name, which led officials to the erroneous conclusion that he did not have a visa.

    But the systemic breakdown went further. A State Department cable outlining Abdulmutallab's father's warnings about his son was available to U.S. security officials who maintain the no-fly list, the report said. But the cable alone did not meet the "minimum derogatory standard" for Abdulmutallab to get on the list.

    At that point, one official said, the logical thing to do would have been to check to see if there were other red flags on Abdulmutallab. That apparently did not happen.

    Also yesterday, a senior official in Yemen said that Abdulmutallab had met with operatives of al-Qaeda and probably with Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical U.S.-born Internet preacher, in Yemen before setting out on his journey.

    But the official, Rashad al-Alimi, the deputy prime minister for national security and defense, cited Yemeni investigations and said Abdulmutallab had acquired the explosives not in Yemen, which he left on Dec. 4, but in Nigeria.