The “Pants Bomber”

After Sept. 11, 2001, people would say — about everything and anything — “The terrorists will have won if … ” If, for example, we give up flying. Or if we give up our freedom to come and go as we please. The fact is that, gradually, we are giving up quite a few things — including our freedom to come and go as we please.

After the “shoe bomber” who went on his rampage in December 2001, now it’s a … ”pants bomber,” who, despite being just as inept as the first guy, successfully managed to sabotage the airline industry.

Since a young, rich Nigerian convert to radical Islam tried to blow up 289 people on Christmas Day, air travel has become even more hellish. Yesterday, at airports in Toronto and Montreal, flights to the United States were cancelled, and the pre-boarding searches caused nightmarish delays. Meanwhile, once on board, new restrictions are in effect regarding the use of blankets, pillows, corridors, and toilets …

Do they really think that this — restrictions on pillows! — is the way to go about doing things long-term? Let’s not forget that human beings are the ones who make the decision to kill.


It seems that for various reasons, the information the authorities have on human beings who are converts to terror is not taken into account at all.

That was one of the observations made after the Sept. 11 massacre: Several of the 19 men who were implicated had left a number of important clues. But these clues did not get past the barriers of indifference, bureaucracy and fragmentation of the various secret service agencies …

In the weeks before Nov. 5, no one in a position of power reacted to the alarming signals sent (and very clearly received by those around him) by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a military psychiatrist. Hasan would eventually kill 13 people on the base at Fort Hood, Texas. Why did they let him do it?

In the same way, the “pants bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, had attracted attention before Christmas night. His father, concerned about the direction his son was taking, had reported him to the authorities. He was “educated” in London, spotted in Yemen, recognized by al-Qaida, and appeared on a list of terror suspects (TIDE, the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment), which obviously didn’t do its job.

In short, it seems we’d learned nothing about anything.

Western firepower is still concentrated in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the places to track down the men who will strike tomorrow are Pakistan, Yemen and certain spots in Africa.

With our full knowledge, and with total calm, total impunity, and total tolerance, London continues to be the mecca, so to speak, of radical Islam in the West.

When it comes to security, we keep placing our bets on equipment (new detectors in airports, for example). But we have to better manage intelligence, the human factor, in order to find a solution. President Barack Obama took notice of this yesterday, in particular, when he asked that the various lists of suspects be re-examined.

But it seems like déjà vu — too little, too late.

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