“A systemic failure has occurred. And I consider that totally unacceptable” (UPDATED)

I consider an ideology that promotes political correctness over national security to be the systemic failure but I digress:

President Barack Obama on Tuesday blamed “human and systemic failures” for allowing a botched Christmas Day attack aboard a Detroit-bound airliner and a U.S. official said the incident was linked to al Qaeda.

Interrupting a vacation in Hawaii for the second straight day to address the U.S. public, Obama listed several mistakes that allowed a 23-year-old Islamic militant from Nigeria to smuggle explosives onto a plane to the United States.

“What is apparent was that there was a mix of human and systemic failures that contributed to this potential catastrophic breach of security,” Obama told reporters.

“There were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been pieced together,” he said.

Obama, a Democrat, is under pressure from opposition Republicans who fault the administration for not preventing such an attack and the president for keeping silent about it for three days.

Obama said he asked to have preliminary findings by Thursday on reviews he ordered after the incident on the way the United States places people on a “terrorist watch list” and on U.S. air travel screening procedures.

“A systemic failure has occurred. And I consider that totally unacceptable,” he said.

Can we profile now Mr. President?  Can we leave children and little old ladies alone now in our airports Mr. President?  Can we pull aside Middle Eastern looking men and men from nations known to have a radical Muslim problem now Mr. President?  Can we look to Islam as the common denominator of all those who want to kill innocents Mr. President?

Because if the answer continues to be no Mr. President, then there’s your systemic failure sir.


UPDATE: Via DaveD in the comments, a look back to a most cogent and relevant Boston Globe column by Jeff Jacoby:

THE SAFEST airline in the world, it is widely agreed, is El Al, Israel’s national carrier. The safest airport is Ben Gurion International, in Tel Aviv. No El Al plane has been attacked by terrorists in more than three decades, and no flight leaving Ben Gurion has ever been hijacked. So when US aviation intensified its focus on security after 9/11, it seemed a good bet that the experience of travelers in American airports would increasingly come to resemble that of travelers flying out of Tel Aviv.

But in telling ways, the two experiences remain notably different. For example, passengers in the United States are required to take off their shoes for X-ray screening, while passengers at Ben Gurion are spared that indignity. On the other hand, major American airports generally offer the convenience of curbside check-in, while in Israel baggage and traveler stay together until the security check is completed. Screeners at American airports don’t usually engage in conversation with passengers, unless you count their endlessly repeated instructions about emptying pockets and taking laptops out of briefcases. At Ben Gurion, security officials make a point of engaging in dialogue with almost everyone who’s catching a plane.

Nearly five years after Sept. 11, 2001, US airport security remains obstinately focused on intercepting bad things — guns, knives, explosives. It is a reactive policy, aimed at preventing the last terrorist plot from being repeated. The 9/11 hijackers used box cutters as weapons, so sharp metal objects were barred from carry-on luggage. Would-be suicide terrorist Richard Reid tried to ignite a bomb in his shoe, so now everyone’s footwear is screened for tampering. Earlier this month British authorities foiled a plan to blow up airliners with liquid explosives; as a result, toothpaste and cologne have become air-travel contraband.

Of course the Israelis check for bombs and weapons too, but always with the understanding that things don’t hijack planes, terrorists do — and that the best way to detect terrorists is to focus on intercepting not bad things, but bad people. To a much greater degree than in the United States, security at El Al and Ben Gurion depends on intelligence and intuition — what Rafi Ron, the former director of security at Ben Gurion, calls the human factor.

Israeli airport security, much of it invisible to the untrained eye, begins before passengers even enter the terminal. Officials constantly monitor behavior, alert to clues that may hint at danger: bulky clothing, say, or a nervous manner. Profilers — that’s what they’re called — make a point of interviewing travelers, sometimes at length. They probe, as one profiling supervisor told CBS, for “anything out of the ordinary, anything that does not fit.” Their questions can seem odd or intrusive, especially if your only previous experience with an airport interrogation was being asked whether you packed your bags yourself.

Unlike in US airports, where passengers go through security after checking in for their flights and submitting their luggage, security at Ben Gurion comes first. Only when the profiler is satisfied that a passenger poses no risk is he or she allowed to proceed to the check-in counter. By that point, there is no need to make him remove his shoes, or to confiscate his bottle of water.

The President and his advisors, dare I say the rest of the world, would do well to read that column in its entirety if they’re serious about protecting innocents from Islamists.

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