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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

MJS Editorial Board happy to jump on take-her-out-of-context bandwagon

by folkbum

Here's the lede from this morning's top Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial:
Discussing the nation's air security system Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that "The system has worked really very, very smoothly over the course of the past several days." Who is she trying to kid?

Flight attendants and passengers, not the security system, stopped an alleged terrorist's apparent attempt to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day. It was their watchfulness and refusal to become victims that won out, not the security measures at the airport.
The problem here is not that I think there was no failure. By any measure, last week's terrorism-turned-crotchburning was a significant warning shot, at least letting us know that the government STILL hasn't figured out that they should flag people who buy one-way transatlantic tickets with cash and check no baggage. I mean, duh.

The problem is that Janet Napolitano never claimed that the "security system" worked. She wasn't trying to kid anyone. Jake Tapper, the ABC talking head who interviewed Napolitano Sunday morning, headlined his blog post about their conversation, "Napolitano: System Like 'Clockwork ' After Attack, Not So Sure About Before." The transcript also shows Napolitano clearly talking about the system of reactions:
Once this incident occurred, everything went according to clockwork, not only sharing throughout the air industry, but also sharing with state and local law enforcement. Products were going out on Christmas Day, they went out yesterday, and also to the [airline] industry to make sure that the traveling public remains safe. I would leave you with that message. The traveling public is safe. We have instituted some additional screening and security measures, in light of this incident, but, again, everyone reacted as they should. The system, once the incident occurred, the system worked.
I can understand the desire to point fingers here--it's easier to blame an individual than a system--but Napolitano is not at fault, and wasn't trying to pull one over on anyone.

At the very least, point fingers at the people who designed the post-9/11 databases that are so unwieldy that a phone call from a father is lost in the weeds because literally thousands of other data points are given equal weight in a given week. Or point fingers at Republican senators who refuse to allow a vote on a leader for the Transportation Security Administration, not because the nominee is a terrorist sympathizer or anything, but because they fear TSA employees may want to unionize. Or blame Republicans--that would be pretty much all of them, including MJS darling Paul Ryan--who voted against funding the TSA altogether a few weeks back.

Napolitano? She's a convenient scapegoat if you want to take her words out of context. But to do so not only is sickeningly dishonest for the editors of the state's largest daily paper, but also deflects criticism away from where the real problems lie.

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