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Op-Ed: Catalytic Terrorism Reveals the Fallacy of Security Theater

By Bill Lindner     Dec 31, 2009 in World
After eight years of utilizing conveniently-timed catalytic terrorist attacks and dis-informative propaganda to destroy civil rights while warring in 5 different countries against an enemy we created, the U.S. government still can't get their act together
The latest terrorist threat that occurred this past Christmas Day when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian, allegedly attempted to detonate a bomb on board a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam served as the catalyst to escalate the drumbeat for the U.S. to go to war with Yemen while offering more evidence of the recurring problems America has with conveniently-timed terrorist attacks.
In the usual fashion, unnamed, anonymous U.S. officials are being quoted by the media as saying that Abdulmutallab told interrogators that he had attended an Al Qaeda camp in Yemen while, as noted by the WSWS, a web site claiming to speak for the Yemen Al Qaeda organization claimed credit for the failed bombing. As usual, there are some questions as to the authenticity of the alleged 'terrorist' attack. The media habitually quotes anonymous sources to avoid accountability -- avoiding accountability is one of the few things the Federal government excels at. The CIA created, trained and funded Al Qaeda -- in a relationship that has lasted more than 20 years -- and the Taliban.
For years the government has been shoveling propaganda on the American people aided and abetted by a very complicit media, much of which is owned and operated by the CIA. The CIA has a long history of performing covert operations, both on foreign and U.S. soil. For the past 8 plus years the Government has effectively terrorized the American people and much of the rest of the world while fighting terrorism.
Besides being a little too convenient as far as the timing for going to war with Yemen goes, the attempted terrorist attack served as another excuse for the U.S. government to partake in the usual practice of Security theater -- implementing egregious 'security' countermeasures that are designed to make you feel like you're being protected by improved security while doing little or nothing to actually improve security -- giving themselves more excuses to make air travel more painful and troublesome for the vast majority of travelers while opening the door for more racial profiling. Security theater both satisfies and exploits the gap between perceived risk and actual risk.
The attempted terrorist attack has proved highly fortuitous for Washington, opening the door for more unmanned drone attacks against 'Al Qaeda' training camps in Yemen that, as usual, end up not being what the government claims they are and killing numerous civilians, many of which are children, serving as yet another recruiting tool for those who oppose the U.S. military intervention in their country.
Preparing For Yet Another War in the Vastly Oil-Rich Middle East
As noted by Salon News, for all the endless talk about the latest terrorist attack, one issue is, as usual, conspicuously absent: motive. Why would a young Nigerian from a wealthy, well-connected family want to blow himself up on one of our airplanes along with 300 innocent people and why would Saudi and Yemeni extremists want to enable him to do so? We're at war or are conducting military attacks against 5 different Muslim countries, and ultimately, we should ask ourselves: if we drop more bombs on more Muslim countries, will there be fewer or more Muslims who want to blow up our airplanes and are willing to end their lives to do so? As also noted by Salon News, that question really answers itself. It's not surprising that there is increasing evidence that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be fueling a radicalization of young Muslims in the U.S. who are angry about the military occupation of Muslim lands and the deaths of many innocent Muslim citizens.
In preparing for yet another war in the vastly oil-rich Middle East, as noted by the WSWS, is not to eradicate terrorism or protect the American people. These claims have been used repeatedly to justify U.S. military intervention virtually everywhere, from Pakistan to Somalia, to Indonesia, to the Philippines and the entire Middle East.
In keeping with the tradition of war with Afghanistan and Iraq, the real aim of the U.S. intervention is to impose its hegemonic control over the world's strategic energy supplies and the pipelines and shipping routes that deliver them to the world's major powers. Yemen controls the Bab-el-Mandeb strait that connects the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea which provides access to the Suez Canal -- through which tankers carry some three million barrels of oil every day.
Contrary to the slogan of 'change we can believe in,' the Obama White House has continued the occupation of Iraq, escalated the war in Afghanistan, started invading Pakistan, Somalia, and is now preparing for more U.S. military intervention in Yemen -- endangering the American people, needlessly killing American troops, further corrupting America's two-party political system and enriching the military-industrial complex and the large oil companies while destroying the economy and, most likely, increasing the likelihood of furthering a potential global conflict. The blow back that results from these aggressive U.S. attacks could end up being devastating.
Government Prefers That the Security Experience be Unpredictable
Unsurprisingly, as a result of the attempted terrorist attack, the Department of Homeland Security quickly imposed new restrictions on travelers that will lengthen the security lines at airports and limit the movement and actions of international passengers.
Naturally, the government was vague about the 'security' steps being taken, reportedly preferring that the security experience be 'unpredictable' so that passengers wouldn't find the same measures at every airport -- much like the way security screening at airports is already done.
Passengers on international flights will apparently have to remain seated for the last hour of their flights, have nothing on their laps and will not be able to access their carry-on baggage. Overseas passengers will only be allowed one carry-on item. Domestic passengers will most likely face longer security lines.
The new 'security' rules come at a difficult time for the airline industry. Because of the economy, air travel has already declined about 20 percent since 2008 and airlines have been dealing with numerous delays because of inclement weather in many parts of the U.S. Airline executives are afraid that the new steps could complicate things as travelers return home and cause more travelers to cancel flight plans in 2010.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), on its website, ordered new measures for flights that depart from foreign locations to the U.S., including mandatory screening of all passengers at airport gates during the boarding process. All carry-ons would be screened at security checkpoints and while boarding. Text of the new Homeland Security Directive - SD-1544-09-06 -- can be found here.
Security Theater is Dangerous and was Never Intended to Work
As mentioned above, the attempted terrorist attack opened the door for more security theater. None of the actions that allegedly protect you when you fly -- taking off your shoes, bloated no-fly and terrorist watch lists, random searches and screenings, racial profiling, removing liquids with more than 3 ounces, etc. -- actually works or keeps you any safer. What's next? Flying naked so you can be arrested for indecent exposure while being humiliated in front of other travelers? Given the fact that in April 2008 it was reported that the government was trying to develop technology that reads minds of potential criminals to arrest them before any crimes are committed -- just like the 2002 movie 'Minority Report' -- anything is possible.
The system doesn't work. It was never intended to work. It's designed to give scared Americans that warm and fuzzy feeling when they fly and to give the federal government unchecked powers over air travelers. Security theater does have real costs. As noted by FDL, the screening technology at airports costs money. Some companies are making fortunes by making these machines and selling them to the government, which of course, is paid for by taxpayers. In addition to some companies profiting at the expense of every working American, these procedures are also designed to erode our civil liberties and privacy. But, none of them do anything to reduce terrorism on airlines.
As noted by security expert Bruce Schneier, "terrorism is rare, far rarer than many people think...Despite fearful rhetoric to the contrary, terrorism is not a transcendent threat. A terrorist attack cannot possibly destroy a country's way of life; it's only our reaction to that attack that can do that kind of damage. The more we undermine our own laws, the more we convert our buildings into fortresses, the more we reduce the freedoms and liberties at the foundation of our societies, the more we're doing the terrorists' job for them..."
According to the Atlantic, the TSA doesn't screen airport employees when they show up for work each day. Employees who drive fuel trucks, make french fries at McDonald's and clean airport bathrooms do not pass through magnetometers when they enter the airport and their possessions are not searched. More information on how airport security is nothing more than security theater can be found from the Atlantic. Airport Security is an oxymoron.
As with the War on Drugs, the War on Terror is nothing more than a pitiful exercise of political theater that only makes our problems worse and puts us in more dangers. All the money being wasted in the War on Terror to 'keep American's safe' would be better used elsewhere to cure the sick, feed the hungry and create jobs.
Eight Years After 9/11 the Federal Government still Can't Get Their Act Together
Close to a decade of our government illegally spying and eavesdropping on us has served no valid purpose or kept us safer. For the government, illegal spying has been useful for effectively blackmailing Congress persons and journalists and undoubtedly countless others. Eight years after the attacks of 9/11, the federal government still can't get their act together.
In addition to all of our other problems, Americans are being fed loads of propaganda in the hopes of gaining support for a war with Iran because of the U.S. Government's relationship with Israel. As noted by Paul Craig Roberts, America has been brought low, both morally and economically, by its obeisance to the Israel Lobby. That relationship is destroying this country. Apparently the 5 wars we're fighting now haven't cost us enough already.
President Obama was quietly pushing for the renewal of the PATRIOT ACT that expires Dec. 31, 2009. As history has repeatedly proved this past decade, simply add another convenient terrorist attack, and you might be able to scare Congress and the people into submission. The Bush administration used that tactic for eight years. The illegal power grabs made by the Executive branch have gotten entirely out of hand since the appointment of George W. Bush. Those too have continued and worsened under President Obama.
The corruption in our Federal court system became glaringly evident during the 2000 Presidential election when the U.S. Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush to the presidency. The corruption has only gotten worse since then. As you long as you have so much corruption at all levels of the Federal Government, you're going to have something that, either intentionally or accidentally, falls through the cracks as long as there is an agenda to start more wars or collusion to pass illegal 'legislation,' such as happened in numerous other 'terrorist' attacks that conveniently happened at times when G.W. Bush's White House was trying to push that type of legislation through. To find the reasons for destroying Democracy under the guise of fighting terrorism, all you need to do is follow the money.
The War on Terror is a fraud that has succeeded in destroying what was once known as Democracy: our First Amendment rights have been taken away or severely limited, habeas corpus no longer exists, we torture -- in many cases to death, then lie about it and try to cover it up. National Security is nothing but a smoke screen designed to keep our corrupted political and military leaders, among others, out of prison. Our legal system is so corrupt that many cases against alleged terrorists are built on completely circumstantial or fabricated evidence.
In cases where there is no evidence, detainees are held indefinitely with no rights. How much longer will it be until we're all considered terrorists? As noted by Chris Hedges, Constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations can now become a crime. Dissidents, even those who break no laws, can be stripped of their rights and imprisoned without due process. The state can detain and prosecute people not for what they have done, or even what they are planning to do, but for holding religious or political beliefs that the state deems seditious. Muslims were the first to be targeted, but you can be sure they won't be the last.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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