Homeland Security

Enhanced pat-downs and latex gloves — how often do screeners change them?

Anyone who has visited a fast food joint, a doctor’s office or a hospital has watched as workers change gloves between servings or exams. And if they don’t, the customer/patient would surely say something.

How often do the TSA agents doing the “enhanced pat-downs” change gloves? And would most cowed flyers who just want to make it through security and advance to their gate ask them to do so? Or would passengers fear that such a request would invite more enhanced scrutiny?

Until lately I viewed the gloves as protection for the TSA workers, but with the raft of stories about changes to TSA security methods — one on the front page of The New York Times featuring a photo of woman being patted down whose expression screams “I’d rather be anywhere but here” — I started wondering about the possibility of screeners passing everything from bedbugs to skin infections from one passenger to another. The woman in the Times photo is being touched over her blouse, but there are other complaints. Local TV news has found a sure-fire crowd pleaser that may push “If it bleeds it leads” off the top of the show.


Waterboarding is wrong and George Bush knows it

Once again, George Bush is thumbing his nose at the international system he repudiated as president. We learn in today’s New York Times and Washington Post that in his new book, Decision Points, he personally approved the waterboarding of Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

“Had I not authorized waterboarding on senior al Qaeda leaders, I would have had to accept a greater risk that the country would be attacked,” he writes.


A worm and a terror alert

Be afraid. Be very afraid. That’s the message from the U.S. State Department, which issued its travel alert over the weekend for Americans traveling to Europe. But without any specific instructions on what to do about the “potential for terrorist attacks” there.

“U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling,” the alert says.

So the administration has managed to instill a vague sense of panic into U.S. citizens, who are left to decide themselves whether to go ahead with their travel plans. Most have greeted the alert with a shrug and have carried on with business as usual. I’m still planning to fly to London and take the Eurostar to Paris. What’s the alternative unless the U.S. administration grounds all flights, as we saw with a Heathrow terror alert in August 2006?


‘We can sustain another terrorist attack’

As a patriotic American, I hope the Washington Post über-journalist misquoted President Obama in his upcoming book discussing the president's thinking behind the war on terrorism. Reading advance excerpts earlier today, I came across the following quotation attributed to the president:

"We can absorb a terrorist attack. We'll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever ... we absorbed it and we are stronger."


Republicans choosing color palettes for new digs, fail leadership test

News reports today detail how House Republicans are secretly planning their takeover of the Capitol after November’s elections — right down to who gets the best views of the National Mall out the West Front of the building. They’re reading the polls, choosing color palettes and selecting office space, but as they plan to assume leadership positions they’re failing to demonstrate leadership on everything from the economy to jobs to foreign policy to Pastor Jones’s plan to fuel the fires of hatred with the pages of the Quran.


The morality of government secrecy versus transparency

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

The Secret Sits, Robert Frost

The recent WikiLeaks (tsunami would be a better word) of about 77,000 diplomatic cables and intelligence reports raised a recurring issue of American law and policy.

A disturbed young man in our military in Europe turned over classified government documents to WikiLeaks (ironically, an organization dedicated to transparency that does not disclose its address or officers’ names). It, in turn, passed them on to
The New York Times, as well as reputable British and German press organizations.


Transparency by the Imam is needed

My first position on the controversy over the planned mosque and Muslim community center planned to be constructed within two blocks of Ground Zero was to applaud Mayor Bloomberg’s courage in not blaming all Muslims for the murderous actions of extremist, inhuman, suicidal thugs who happen to be of the Muslim faith. 



In 2004, in the wake of anthrax attacks in New York and in Washington, the Congress passed and the president signed into law legislation that was purported to protect the American people from a biological attack. The law created a special reserve fund dedicated to developing medical “countermeasures” to treat symptoms that came from any biological, chemical, radiological or nuclear weapons that might be used by our enemies.

Now, many libertarians might harrumph that the government shouldn’t take such an active role in the biological marketplace, but the fact of the matter is that the risk of a biological attack is fairly low, so the marketplace can’t really support such medical countermeasures without government support. Also, one of the purposes of government as defined in our Constitution is to provide for the common defense, and well, this fits the bill.


Rendition fallout

The American Psychological Association argued to the Texas licensing board that one of its members, James Mitchell, should be stripped of his license for “patently unethical behavior” in violation of the organization’s ethical guidelines, The Washington Post reports. In 2002, Mitchell, then retired from the Air Force, reportedly assisted the CIA’s interrogation of a terrorist detainee, Abu Zubaydah, in Thailand. Zubaydah was alleged to be a top al Qaeda official. A Senate report stated that interrogators including Mitchell used extreme measures to question Zubaydah, including waterboarding. Mitchell called the complaint libelous, distorted and inaccurate, though he added he was not permitted “to discuss any work that I may have done for the CIA.”