Sunday, December 27, 2009

I Cannot Wait To Fly Tomorrow

To say I cannot wait is probably not just right because I probably will have to wait. I anticipate a pain in the derriere trying to check in and get me and my luggage on my flight. I will be pleasantly surprised if all goes without a hitch. I have only two checked bags, and two carry on pieces (a computer case and a small backpack). Then again, being that I have a shotgun, a rifle, ammunition, pepper spray, a couple of knives, a field surgical kit and other things in one of my pieces of checked luggage, and that I have leg irons in another, and that I will be carrying two firearms on my person (I am a fedaral agent traveling on business), I expect at least a minor inquisition at best. Last time I flew out to Arizona for work, I had a Port Authority Police officer tell me that I was positively, definitely, absolutely not allowed to transport ammunition in the same piece of luggage that also contained firearms. Even though I showed him a printed copy of the regulations allowing for such - he argued with me all the way to the TSA screener and the argument was all one sided for a change. The gentelman from TSA told him he was wrong and it was okay for me to have it just the way I had it.

I expect at least the same tomorrow either from the check-in person for the airline, the Port Authority Police Officer who comes to check me because I will also be carrying firearms on my person, or the screeners from TSA. Of course if I clear all of them, I can usually get through the initial TSA checkpoint okay but with the recent terrorist attack on Christmas day, a failed attack at that, my guess is that they will all be jumpy. I imagine the gate agents will also be nervous. So I expect extra checks of my ID, maybe an extra check of my ticket, maybe an extra check of my luggage. So along those lines I have copies of my travel authorization, a copy of the airline regulations about transporting firearms and ammo, and a copy of the TSA regulations about the same.

All the checking I expect will all be okay with me. I don't mind them checking me and my things really diligently so long as they are checking everyone likewise. I sure do not want my plane blowing up with me or anyone else in it. I know I am not going to try to do something like that, never would even contemplate it; but I sure do not know squat about anyone else, so I hope they check them very well too. So while I expect a delay, it will be okay so long as they are professional and polite during my check-in and boarding and during whatever other checks they want to perform. I expect a delay so much so that I expect to be at the airport 2 1/2 hours early for my flight. If I get through quickly, well then I'll enjoy an icy cold beverage or three at the bar - like a coke or 7-UP (no alcohol while armed) and maybe I'll read a book or just keep a wary eye on the other passengers. My motto for this flight is Arrive Alive; you can bet that after what happened on Friday I will be a bit on the wary side myself.

All the best,
Glenn B

The Joke Really Is On Us...

...at least it was on us today. Once again Dumb Luck, or was it his sister Fickle Fate, came to play in the lives of the crew and passengers of the exact same flight, Northwest Airlines flight 253, that was almost blown up on Christmas day two days ago. In an amazing set of coincidences, while aboard Northwest flight 253 from Nigeria to Detroit via Amsterdam, a Nigerian man was observed to be getting up several times and going to the rest room, and at least once locking himself inside the rest room and refusing to come out. This evidently got the passengers and crew on edge after Friday's near catastrophe on the same fight. So, the flight crew radioed ahead for assistance worried that this man was another terrorist.

As it turned out, it is all laughable, very laughable, even though no one was intentionally joking. You see, the man had quite the legitimate reason to be inside of the restroom, and all the reason in the world not to come out when asked to do so by the flight crew. He had a case of the squirts, a la food poisoning. Of course, maybe the joke has yet to be played. You see, it has been reported that this man was arrested upon arrival in Detroit. Can you imagine that - being arrested for having a case of the shits squirts! I think the joke may be coming in the form of a lawsuit but not many will be laughing. Hopefully this guy has a sense of humor and a sense of honor and a good amount of understanding and can laugh off the whole thing in light of how scared others on the flight must have been because of what happened only two days ago under amazingly coincidental circumstances.

Of course the plane was searched, the suspect was interviewed and on and on with the determination being made that he had been ill. Me being the cynical type though has to wonder if the authorities actually checked the blue water to see if any contraband had been passed. I seriously doubt they did so, but it may have been worth the search. The guy could well have been ill, or maybe he could have been passing heroin filled condoms. Did anyone at CBP think of having him x-rayed?

Sources: 1010 WINS radio broadcasts and 880 WCBS AM radio broadcast on 12/29/2009, and http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,581232,00.html.

All the best,
Glenn B

Airline Security And Our Attitude About It - What A Joke Here and Abroad

If you don't see that airline security in the United States of America is an absolute joke then I think you are blind. For that matter you could probably say that national security here in the USA is a joke but I would need a lot more time to delve into that one, so for today, the eve of my upcoming flight to Phoenix, just let me discuss airline security.

By now, unless you live in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan, you should know that on Christmas Day a terrorist tried to blow up or cause a fire to destroy a commercial passenger plane. He did so by trying to ignite explosive chemical(s) that he carried onto the aircraft on his person. How was he able to do so?

Well it seems that it was pretty easy for him to get away with his evil deed, from smuggling the substance(s) aboard the aircraft to getting it ready for ignition, to actually igniting the substance. Yet something went wrong, but not because of any security policies, procedures or practices on the part of the airlines, nor of our government. What was it that prevented the disaster - apparently it was good fortune - yes plain old dumb luck! Of course dumb luck had some help, help that would likely have been too late had dumb luck not arrived on the scene in the first place, but it did have help to prevent things from getting worse. That help was in the form of a single, I repeat: a SINGLE passenger, among 278 others and 11 crew members, who jumped over other passengers to stop the terrorist act - more about this later.

For now let me spell out some of the facts as they are known and or surmised so far:

The suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was suspected, by the U.S. Government, of ties to terrorists. That was months ago or years ago depending on the source. (See:
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,581211,00.html and http://www.1010wins.com/Alleged-Terrorist-Known--Not-Considered-a-Threat/5977168.)

In November 2009, the father of the suspect contacted U.S. authorities telling them he feared his son was becoming a radical Islamist, an extremist, that he feared he would do something bad. The suspect's name then was placed into TIDE, a U.S. Government data base that holds information on suspected terrorists.

The suspect's name was not placed into the No Fly data base. According the head of the department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, there was no specific information that warranted placing his name on said list. (Source:
http://www.1010wins.com/HSS--No-Indication-of-Larger-Plot/5977302.) Imagine that, a suspect terrorist, or at least a person who is suspected of some ties to terrorism, or at least in on U.S. Radar in relation to possible terrorism, is on the radar for months to years and there is not enough specific information to have him on the no fly list even though his father feared that his son had become an extremist Islamist. In addition the same suspect had been banned from England as in deported or removed and was not allowed to fly there (source: Fox News broadcast Sunday December 27, 2009). Why - because they had specific information about him, enough to keep him out of their country. Yet we here in the USA did not have enough information.

So what does the suspect do. He buys a ticket for travel from Nigeria to the USA via Amsterdam. He pays for it in cash. It is a one way ticket. (Reported on in a Fox News broadcast Sunday December 27, 2009.) Folks, these are indicators and supposedly there were others, that he should have been watched more closely and given much more scrutiny regarding security before he boarded the aircraft.

We are at the point now where he is on the flight. Apparently he had planned, or someone else had planned, his terrorist act with some forethought as to where he could sit to do the most damage. He had a seat in row 19. On the particular aircraft on which he was traveling, row 19 is one of the rows over the wing. The wing on this particular aircraft, as on many others, contains fuel tanks. Not only was he in a row over the fuel tank, his actual seat was a window seat, so he was right up against the wall of the aircraft. Why is this an important consideration, well it was explained pretty well here:

"A former Homeland Security official told Fox News that Abdulmutallab's seat selection does not appear to be accidental, and that he was sitting in one of the two most vulnerable parts of the plane. The suspect was sitting in seat 19A, which is over the fuel tanks, atop the wing and next to the skin of the aircraft

There is a high likelihood an explosion could be accelerated by the fuel tank, the official said — and that it could damage the plane's structure and puncture the skin, bringing down the aircraft." (Source:
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,581211,00.html.)

Allow me to go a bit further with this based upon my very limited knowledge of fuel tank explosions. Not only is it important that he attempted to set off a bomb or incendiary device while seated directly above and or adjacent to the fuel tanks on the aircraft but it is very important that he waited until most of, or a lot of, the fuel in those tanks was expended. Yes more fuel would burn longer, but less liquid fuel allows for more fumes, and as I understand more fumes means an explosion would be more likely instead of just the possibility of a burning fuel tank. An explosion would more likely have devastated the plane immediately than would a fire. Of course I could be wrong on this as my knowledge is limited to gasoline fumes and I am only guessing that the same could hold true for jet fuel.

Now we are at the point about 20 minutes or so before the plane is due to land in Detroit. The alleged terrorist gets up and goes to the bathroom. He is in there for quite some time, then returns to his seat where he complains of stomach pains and covers himself with a nefarious blanket. It was shortly after that when other passengers heard a popping noise as that of a firecracker, and saw flames coming from where Abdulmutallab was seated.

So what happened then? Did a large number of passengers get up and pounce on the suspect. Did the crew immediately come running over to extinguish the flames and take out the suspected terrorist. Hell no! One man, who was finally identified on Fox News (on cable) this morning took action. He was seated about one row behind and at least a couple to a few seats across, maybe even across the aisle, from Abdulmutallab. He got up, jumped and climbed over other passengers, who all apparently were doing nothing, and tried to extinguish the flames and control the suspected terrorist. I heard and saw this man explain his actions in a short video clip this morning on Fox News. He put it this way: He wanted to put out the flames and basically immobilize the suspect because he thought he was trying to blow up the plane. Other passengers and the flight crew eventually came to his aid but it was he who single handed took action and who prevented the substance from being successfully ignited, that is right after dumb luck reared its ever so fickle head to help prevent a potential disaster. You see, it seems apparent that the suspect never got it lit properly (again something I heard on Fox this morning but that was probably only a guess). Or maybe he did get it lit right, maybe it takes a few seconds to start blazing to where it would have destroyed the aircraft and killed all 289 people aboard, maybe it was just due to this one brave and heroic passenger that the flames were extinguished and the plot foiled. The suspect was secured and brought to the front of the aircraft and placed IN A FRONT ROW SEAT!

What happened next. Someone decides it would be a good idea to contact all of the other 120 flights over the USA at that time. From 60 to 90 minutes later, all of the crew of those other aircraft were notified.

The suspect has been arrested and charged with: "...trying to destroy the airplane. A conviction on the charge could bring Abdulmutallab up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine." (See:
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,581211,00.html.)

So why do I think that airline security is a joke. If not obvious to you so far let me spell it out:

Well it was a job well done by someone who was not working - the passenger who saved the day. It was certainly not a good job by the U.S. Government who had this guy on their 'radar' for months to years yet could not find anything specific enough by which to rate him for inclusion on either Terrorist Watch List (not the same data base in which his name was included) nor on the N0-Fly list not even after the suspect's father informed on his own son to the U.S. Government over his concerns about the suspect having become radicalized. Note this is all the new agencies keep saying was revealed by the father. Think of it though, take a moment, do you really think that is all the father told the government officials. Do you think it went like this: 'Oh, my son is becoming radical in his Islamic beliefs and I thought I had better tell you.' Or do you think there just may have been something of more substance to what he told us? Someone really screwed up on this one, and because of one passenger and dumb luck, almost 300 people are still alive today!

Instead of saying something like: We in DHS really need to check into this and get to the bottom of it, and if this happened because of some fault on the part of U.S. officials - well, heads will roll' what does Janet Napolitano say? "Napolitano says that despite Abdulmutallab's success at getting dangerous chemicals on board the plane, commercial flying is safe. " (Reference:
http://www.1010wins.com/HSS--No-Indication-of-Larger-Plot/5977302.) Imagine that, flying is safe.

Well if it is so safe then why are the regulations for flying suddenly changing in what amounts to another pointless knee jerk reaction on the part of the Transportation Security Administration (under DHS) and on the part of the airlines? Why is the government, while not changing the alert level, performing tighter security measures if it is so safe to fly? Why, if flying is safe, are passengers, at least on international flights, being told they can not leave their seats for one hour prior to lading (and this apparently a new regulation enacted by the TSA)?. Why, if flying is safe, are they being told by some airlines they have to stow all carry-ons one hour prior to landing? Why, if flying is safe, are some airlines urging passengers not to bring carry-on items?

Why, if flying is safe, is at least one airline now saying that passengers will not be given blankets or pillows when they fly. Can you even fathom how they think this will prevent terrorism? So the guy covered himself with a blanket while preparing or trying to ignite his device. Could he not just as easily have done do with a sweater, jacket, a coat, a newspaper like the New York Times (I use them because of the size of the paper), or anything else? Would those tiny pillows the airlines give out conceal anything?

Why, if flying is actually safe, is all of this happening now? The truth be told, it is happening now because flying is not safe under the rules and safety policies and procedures that were enacted and changed many times after 9/11. Had they actually been effective, and had flying actually been safe, then the show bomber would never have made it on to the plane and nor would this most recent suspect been able to attempt to destroy and aircraft and kill all aboard. Make no mistake about it, this guy was, in all likelihood, trying to kill everyone aboard that plane. Yet, he is charged only with trying to destroy an aircraft!

Amazingly, even the government is reportedly doubting or at least wondering whether or not current security polices and procedures are working: "But lawmakers are already calling for hearings, and the government may order a review. As President Barack Obama received regular updates on the investigation from his staff, his national security and policy aides have been asking whether the policies the U.S. has in place are working." Can you imagine how long such hearings will take before our government reaches a conclusion. After all, it took them 60 to 90 minutes to notify the crews of only 120 other flights that a terrorist act had just been attempted and to confirm that all the other flights were safe. If the flight in question had been hijacked, instead of a lone bomber trying to blow it up, imagine if you will just how many other flights might have been hijacked and made it to their destinations of destruction, like those on 9/11, if it took up to 90 minutes to notify all the crews of such an attempt. (See:
http://www.1010wins.com/Alleged-Terrorist-Known--Not-Considered-a-Threat/5977168.) Whom are they kidding with regard to whether or not security measures are working - of course they are not working, they cannot even get other flight crews notified in a reasonable amount of time let alone implement security measures that work!

If you really want airline security that works, go to the Israelis and look to El Al. Their security measures work. Their security measures would also piss off a lot of people here in the USA and around the world if they were implemented everywhere but, and this is a big BUT, they would also thwart terrorists. To my knowledge, El Al has never had a commercial passenger plane successfully hijacked and never had one blown up by a terrorist and has never even allowed a terrorist with a bomb or other such device aboard one of their planes. They have a strict security protocol in place and believe me it saves lives by preventing hijackings and other terrorist attacks on their aircraft. Folks, we do not need knee jerk reactions made by a bunch of jerks, what we need are good and strong security procedures put in place that may upset or inconvenience passengers (at least until they get used to them) but that will definitely prevent things like this near catastrophe on Christmas Day.

Now not only is the government at fault here. You and I are at fault too. We need to demand strict polices and procedures concerning air travel security. Why - because it will prevent terrorism and save lives. We need to remember that when we travel aboard an aircraft we are not enjoying one of our rights. We are enjoying a privilege. It is something for which we pay, and for which we need to follow rules, and during which we are the guests or customers of a private enterprise. We are in their facility, on their aircraft, and need to abide by their rules within reason. Within reason means everyone should be screened by machine, x-ray and sniffer, for contraband. Personal searches with a wand should include everyone. Personal patdown searches should include anyone who acts at all suspicious and should also include random searches of at least 1/2 the passengers on any flight. Every piece of luggage should be inspected by machine and by a person. Yes every piece. If all these measure mean you pay more for flying, tough. If it means you have to be at the airport 3 hours before you fly - tough. if it means that one plane full of people is saved - well isn't that wonderful.

Before I close, let me address one more knee jerk reaction. This one on the part of the crew of the particular flight that was targeted by Abdulmutallab. After the flames were extinguished, after he was subdued, after he probably was bound in some manner, where did the flight crew place him? They put him in the first row of seats. The put him as close to the cockpit as they could have done and still have him in a passenger seat. Tell me folks, what is it that was going on in the mind of the moron that arrived at that decision? Did they think that whatever method they used to control him was inescapable. Did they not even consider that he might, from that vantage point, be able to make an attempt at breaching the cockpit. Did they not even consider he may have had accomplices on the aircraft and that him causing a further commotion up near the cockpit (the control area of the aircraft, the part which any terrorist would love to breach so he could crash the plane) would cause them to zero in only on him and therefore miss what an accomplice might be doing elsewhere because of concern he may breach the cockpit. It absolutely amazes me that someone could have been so foolish as to have placed him in the first row, but that is what has been reported as having been done.

We are at the mercy of fools when we fly in the airlines, in the government and among our fellow passengers. Luckily we are also sometimes under the wing of dumb luck and of heroes. Even if everything that stopped Abdulmutallab from igniting the bomb or device and destroying the aircraft thereby killing everyone aboard was due to the actions of one man, it is still in part due to dumb luck - at least for the other passengers - that such happened. Why? Well, I guess because of where he was seated, because he was awake and not in a drunken slumber (I am not even implying he drinks just saying it is lucky he was not snockered), because he was paying attention, because he had the balls to actually do something, because he was not a sheeple, because he was in fact a hero and folks let me tell you that people like him are few and far between. The first to take action when action is need, the first to dive right into Harm's hands let alone Harm's way. The first to realize, hell - something has to be done otherwise we are all dead.

Now what has been done for that man. His name has been mentioned on television. He was seen in a brief video as of this morning, right hand bandaged (I think from burns he received when subduing the bad guy) explaining what he did. I wonder though, why no accolades as a hero. I wonder not how much reward he will be given but I wonder how soon he will be forgotten. Why? Because that is the way we are. We would rather reward someone for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a terrorist who actually blew up a plane rather than reward someone who actually action to prevent a tragedy and save hundreds of lives. Why is that? That is because the airlines tell you not to take action, heck they even demand that law enforcement officers not take any actions until notified by a flight crew member to do so. Lucky for this flight crew and all the passengers that this guy did not wait for anyone. If it was up to me, this man would be given free passage anywhere in the world for the remainder of his life aboard any airline, train, bus or ship on which he wanted to travel. In addition he would be given a reward, not a medal, not a citation, but a real reward for saving lives. Something around a million dollars sounds about right. If he is lucky though, maybe he can do a TV show, or write a book, or get his picture on a Wheaties box. As for the million bucks, he deserves more than that, but I doubt he will see a penny of a reward for his brave actions that prevented a disaster. That is a sad commentary on all of us.

What will happen though is more likely to be this: Airline and government security regulations will be heightened. It will be a pain in the butt to travel from now until about the next high travel season - would that be spring break. Then people will moan and groan and complain about what a terrible hardship it is to have to go through security for an extra 15 minutes or half hour, and about how embarrassed they were to have to be searched or x-rayed, and they will threaten lawsuits, and the airlines and the government will relax the stricter regulations and will be back, if not to square one, then to square 2 and folks we should already be at square 10 by now. Then it will happen all over again. Well, maybe not the part about Dumb Luck and a single hero saving the day, just the heightened security measures - that is after a terrorist successfully hijacks or blows up a plane the next time around. Our attitude about this all is a joke and folks, unless we change our attitude and become serious about our security and safety at the cost of our convenience, then the only ones left laughing will be the terrorists.

All the best,
Glenn B
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