More ways not to prevent terrorism

Worldview Item of the Day

Starting today, the Transportation Safety Administration will enact a whole bevy of new security regulations the agency claims will prevent terrorism on board aircraft. While the regulations will make traveling to the United States more unpleasant for people coming from certain countries, I doubt that they will go very far toward preventing a determined terrorist from committing an act of terror in the skies.

These new regulations follow a track record of American attempts to stop terrorists by thwarting their attempts at the last possible moment by preventing them from getting onto the airplanes/trains/buses/boats they plan to attack in some way. What we know about the Christmas day attempt that led to these regulations is that many and varied options existed to stop that attempt long before the perpetrator actually got onto the airplane he tried to blow up.

These latter options reveal the actual way that the US Government should be preventing terrorists from getting onto airplanes: advanced intelligence, tracking the movements of suspects, and punitive action against suspects when necessary to prevent them from acting. While some of these measures may also be going into effect today–we probably don’t know because they are necessarily classified–even they are not enough given the never-ending lack of funding and overbearing restrictions placed on intelligence and military agencies trying to deal with the terrorists.

The best way to stop these kinds of people from doing these kinds of things is to stop them at the source. Stopping them at the source means attacking their bases of training, supply, and operation in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. Stopping them means acting on actionable intelligence as soon as it is practical. Stopping them means removing the barriers to sharing information so that intelligence can be come actionable.

I understand that there are many, practical barriers toward the actions necessary toward stopping the terrorists before they attack again, but as a nation, we should be demanding resolution of the failures that made the Christmas day attack possible instead of accepting the smokescreen that pat-downs and bomb swabs represent. Until we make that demand as a nation, we will continue to be at unnecessary risk.


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