Monday, May 09, 2005

America's Security Boondoggle

The US has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on faulty high-tech screening equipment to combat possible terrorist attacks.

The troublesome devices include explosives detectors triggered by Yorkshire puddings and nuclear weapons monitors which are set off by bananas.

Since the September 2001 attacks, £2.4 billion (almost $5 billion) has been spent on equipment to monitor airports, ports, mail sorting offices and border posts. But most of the money has been wasted, the New York Times reported yesterday.

The laundry list of malfunctioning devices is pitiful. US government officials would be shamed into resignation - if they had any shame to begin with.

The authorities are now spending billions more to buy new equipment or modify earlier purchases. Among the problems were radiation detectors unable to differentiate between nuclear weapons, cat litter or bananas.

Some chemical weapons monitors went off 36 hours after an attack, while mail screening systems picked up anthrax traces but nothing else. "Everyone was standing in line with their silver bullets to make us more secure after September 11," said Col Randall Larsen, a former government adviser. "We bought a lot of stuff off the shelf that wasn't effective."

In one case, airport authorities bought 1,300 screening machines, each costing more than £500,000 (more than $1 million), to detect explosives by assessing the density of objects.

But many objects, from shampoo bottles to Yorkshire puddings, have similar densities to explosives, triggering the alarm in up to a third of all luggage.

Unfazed by this incredible boondoggle, US government officials tried desperately to put a positive spin on their malfeasance.

A spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration said even poorly functioning devices provided some deterrence to terrorists.

Christopher Cox, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives homeland security committee, said that after the terrorist attacks, the government showed its commitment by spending more money as rapidly as possible.

He said: "That brought us what we might expect, which is some expensive mistakes."

Rep. Cox should resign in disgrace. Better still, voters in his district should demand he step down and mount a recall effort, if possible. The same applies for the every Representative on the laughably named Homeland Security Committee. Rep. Cox and his colleauges on Capitol Hill have utterly failed the American people, as has the White House. On September 11, 2001, the US was viciously attacked by highly organizaed Islamic fanatics from the Middle East. The US government knew of this building threat for decades and calmly tolerated escalating attacks on Americans and US interests abroad with nary a response. Despite overwhelming intelligence of Islamist desire to strike in the US, and several actual terrorist attacks by Islamists on US soil - including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center - the US government failed to take the action to apprehend or exterminate the terrorists abroad. Worse still, it failed to take the absolute simplest action possible to prevent 9/11 -- deny the Islamist access to the US. In the aftermath of the 1993 attack on the WTC, immigration from the Middle East should have been virtually cut off. Visas for tourism, business travel and education should have been radically restricted and those granted such visas should have been carefully screened and monitored. Preventing Islamist terrorists from entering the US in the first place is the best and most sensible means of preventing a terrorist attack. It is also the least expensive and doesn't require any new technology.

Washington's failure to take this simple, preventative step allowed Islamists to travel to the US, survey targets, organize vast fundraising apparatus amongst American Muslims, and establish networks of sympathizers in the US. Meanwhile, the US government, rendered brain dead by the intellectual poison of multiculturalism, declined to investigate the suspicious behavior of some Muslims for fear of appearing "racist."

If the US government wants to prevent another massive Islamist terrorist attack on the US, the most effect action it can take is to stop Islamists from entering the US. That means refusing entry to people coming from the Middle East and to Muslims coming from Europe (home to many radical Islamists). The northern and southern US borders should be secured. No need for high-technology here either; thousands of well-armed agents on foot or horseback, in planes, helicopters or jeeps will do very nicely. This will, of course, raise a hewn cry from the Islamist advocacy organizations and pressure groups in the US who will scream racism, intolerance and discrimination. To this, Washington must answer: too bad. Protecting the lives of American citizens must take precedence over the feelings of certain religious or ethnic groups, especially those from which those who are waging war on the US come.

But Washington - both Congress and the White House - refuses to restrict entry to the US. The Bush administration even tried to revive the accelerated visa program with Saudi Arabia (from which 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers came) within months of the attacks. The borders remain porous and unprotected, while US intelligence officials warn that Islamist terrorists are virtually certain to cross the US-Mexico border to enter the US. The only thing Washington has does is to create new layers of bureacracy (requiring billions in taxpayer funding) and spend billions of dollars on worthless technology manufactured by corporations whose lobbyists loiter in the halls of Congress, plying congressmen with campaign contributions and free dinners, vacations and promises of future jobs. It leaves one to wonder whether the US government really wants to prevent another attack, or secretly hopes for one.


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